Soul Archipelago (2019), Large-Scale Intstallation.
Soul Archipelago is a large-scale installation of a fake island chain that explores image based narratives upon the aesthetic driven exploitation, reality, and pride of tropical islands and the relations to surrounding oceans as well. Utilized as nine different islands with different visual cues that can be either found in the tropics naturally or reflect impacts of human made industries that create a commerce involving the ocean. The start of inspiration for this work comes from being raised as a settler in Honolulu, Hawai'i and constantly being in a acclimatized mix of rain forests, deserts, and ongoing constant urbanity that surrounds the city like a mosaic. While also pulling from recollected personal knowledge of the spiritual, economical, and cultural importance of the tropics from my diasporic South Asian heritage, I wanted to create somewhat of a land that is visually nowhere which represents an image of home done by my own experiential and cultural formulation. Moving abroad in a westernized metropolis in North America with a similar colonial history, I began to grow an early frustration of western media and society based personal ignorance that portray tropical climates, especially islands, as flimsy ideas of being sole places of ease and get away flight leisure. Alongside ongoing climate degradation caused by human made industries, especially those who commercial warfare upon many oceans, I decided to create an island chain where aesthetic cues and physical disruption of artificial landscapes can begin a sense of confrontation and push back to this hollow exotification. This is utilized is by using said aesthetics to depict real life changes happening climate wise in tropical climates internationally. While each island is inspired by real places, the work also diverges from being a real place by being represented in surreal and unnatural shapes, landscapes, and colours. Creating islands out of completely synthetic material alludes to a certain dissociation of home that one can feel while moving abroad but being highly connected to a concern of ongoing political, structural, and environmental issues occurring in present time. Where the critique of simplifications through of commercial and even creative indulged aesthetics comes in (i;e tourist industries, vapourwave, the ignorance of land degradation) is through the own shortcomings of using material such as air-dry clay, plastic figurines, food based-product that tries to emulate the sense of natural elements of water, sand, and ecology only to go through a period of erosion through cracking, denting, and impermanence much like an island chain only without a chance of regeneration that involves no intervention. From being a generated response upon needing to create imagery that represents home, Soul Archipelago stands as it's own location depicting a topical solidarity for island based groupings, states, and nations with tropical climates internationally, presenting a duality of what is critically an issue but also celebrating what's diverse, magical, and engulfing about tropical islands collectively.
Documentation by Yuula Benivolski.