In 2014, a glacier in Iceland melted. Its name was Okjokull, and it was the first to be lost to climate change. Five years later, scientists erected a plaque to memorialise the event, writing “A Letter to the Future.” An exhibition of the same name is now open Terminal 7 at LAX, highlighting works by Los Angeles-based artist Luciana Abait. The show is focused on raising awareness about environmental issues, immigration and migration forced by the climate crisis.
Abait, who is longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize, creates photo-based manipulated landscapes that are at once surreal, barren and thought-provoking. Icebergs float amongst seas of stars. Rows of red chairs stand out against white snow. Ferris wheels loom in the distance, out of place on uninhabited terrain. Elsewhere, luminous pinks and greens dominate the sky, creating an otherworldly, hyperreal atmosphere. They bring to mind ideas of isolation and displacement, reflecting on humanity’s impact on the natural world – even in the most remote places.
When the show opened in November 2019, it soon collided with global lockdowns, which turned airports into deserted spaces. “The desolation and isolation portrayed in these artworks becomes not only a burden shouldered by those who have immigrated, but now by all of humanity, since we all have become as isolated as icebergs, locked down in solitude inside our homes,” the artist explains. “The virus has spread so fast through our global community. I have come to realise that COVID-19 has changed the world that we all knew, and the way we interact, forever. We will all be immigrants in our own shared new world.”
A Letter to the Future underscores the need for global environmental change. But, for Abait, these compositions are also a form of personal reflection – informed by her own story of immigration. The artist moved from South America to the US in the 1990s. Each resulting work juxtaposes natural imagery with man-made objects, acting as metaphors for her journey. “Icebergs represent me as a wanderer, shifting between oceans and continents,” she notes.
All images courtesy Luciana Abait.