For Emily Parsons-Lord, the air that we breathe is both a physical and conceptual space. Or, as the artist puts it: “there’s a whole ecosystem in the air.”
Words: Naomi Riddle
Photography: Jacquie Manning
A 2017 finalist in the prestigious NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship and resident at Parramatta Artists Studios, Parsons-Lord’s eclectic practice moves effortlessly between performance, installation, video, and sculpture. She works with the most unusual of materials: a plant distress pheromone, the minerals in fireworks, or gallium (a metal that has a melting point of 29.76 degrees). But it’s her preoccupation with air, and its relationship to climate change, that unites her practice – be it in the Co2-filled exhale of a politician’s breath in Our Fetid Rank (2015), or a small button that releases “future air” in The Confounding Leaving (2016).
2018 has been a mammoth year for Parsons-Lord: a pyrotechnic performance in response to Lee Kun-Yong’s Equal Area at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, a group show at Penrith Regional Gallery and a solo show at Sydney multidisciplinary space Cement Fondu. She was a finalist in the John Frieze Award and performed another explosive feat to a wide-eyed crowd at Sydney Contemporary art fair.
Parsons-Lord finished off the year in Adelaide, exhibiting as part of Vitalstatistix’s Climate Century – a three-week festival of climate change art for the 21st century. Then Let Us Run (The Sky is Falling) considers the process of stratospheric aerosol injection: a scientific proposal for combatting climate change where substances are released into the upper atmosphere in order to lower temperatures. One side effect of this is the permanent removal of blue from the sky. In creating an immersive environment that mimics this altered sky-space, Parsons-Lord presents a visceral installation that brings together climate science, speculative fiction, tragi-humour and the atmosphere itself.
2019 sees Parsons-Lord undertake a three- month development as artist-in-residence at the LungA School in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland, obtain her pyrotechnic licence, and exhibit at the Cementa19 festival in Kandos. Given that climate change is rapidly becoming the greatest challenge of our time, it seems certain that Parsons-Lord’s planetary empathy will continue to be an essential salve when reckon- ing with our impending environmental crisis.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 87, JAN-MAR 2019.