Together with the Canadian storm chaser and meteorologist Mark Robinson, B&B travelled to the Midwest in the US, to film and document the increasingly hostile weather patterns that are developing today. The exhibition The Storm centers on B&B’s attempt to intercept a tornado using a device called the Tornado Diverter.
”The idea of creating a protective shield against tornadoes was formulated in 2004 by the Russian scientist Vladimir Pudov, at the Institute for Experimental Meteorology, Obninsk. In 2007, we travelled to Obninsk to interview him for our film, The Weather War. He had just retired from his position at the institute and no longer had the funds needed to further develop his invention. We were intrigued by the scope of his idea of being able to affect the most powerful weather phenomenon on earth, and decided to take up the challenge and build it for him.”
In the middle of the gallery, placed on a custom built trailer, the Tornado Diverter is flanked by a series of photomontages printed on layered glass. The photo montages document the aftermath of the destructive tornado, that wiped out parts of Joplin, USA, May 22nd, 2011.
”We slowly roll into Joplin, and initially it looks like any small town in southern Missouri. A shopping mall and the familiar row of well-known fast food chains formed a line, on the strip leading towards the city center. But when the wound opens up, it is an unbelievable sight. We enter exactly at the spot, where the tornado caused the most damage, at St. John’s Hospital. We stop at an intersection and look out over the 1.5-kilometer wide strip of pulverized buildings, that extends 10 kilometers, from the city’s west side to the east.”
As the most destructive tornado recorded in the US since 1947, dubbed ”Gods Finger,” the twister eradicated over eight thousand houses and killed 130 people, in the middle of the Bible belt. Bigert & Bergström’s layered photomontages titled Disasters of Weather depicts the trees in the wreckage, with broken off branches and twisted metal around their trunks. Like Goya’s engravings of mutilated torsos and limbs mounted on trees, the Joplin trees cry out the absurd violence, that is involved with a natural catastrophe.
Ever since their first large-scale performance/installation Biosphere III, in 1990, B&B has been obsessed with the climate and its extremes. The weather—both a trivial theme for petty conversation and a life threatening natural force—is central in their art. And they use it to pinpoint our currently exposed position living in a slowly heating lab-maze.
A call to arms and prelude to coming visionary geo-engineering performances, Bigert & Bergström’s exhibition The Storm also plays a part in the duo’s new film, The Weather War. The film tracks the history and contemporary struggle, between man and man-made climate, as we approach the tipping point.
In connection with the exhibition, The Storm, a field-guide covering the project, has been published by the gallery. The book is designed by Björn Kusoffsky and the opening essay is written by Christopher Turner.
Photos: Robin Nilssen