Kenyon College

The (Snow) Migrant by Claudia Esslinger

April 17, 2023–May 20, 2023  [+]

The (Snow) Migrant is an installation that uses gesture and metaphor to explore the connection between migration and a changing climate. A dreamlike narrative is offered featuring a character who tries to navigate a frozen but melting world. A simple kayak is her insufficient transportation. An animated life preserver floats around her over sandbags that hug the border walls.

This project was prompted by two journeys. The first was to southern Chile, where I had the opportunity as an artist-in-residence to explore an ecological preserve and also fly over Cape Horn. I worked in the presence of ecologists and climatologists, who left southern Chile for expeditions to Antarctica. They spoke often about the melting glaciers that were causing water levels around the earth to rise. The other sojourn was a three month stay in Italy. Envisioning the migrant path through southern Italy into Europe was a daily reality, as immigrants sold wares on the streets and stories of deaths during crossings of the Mediterranean were prevalent in the news.

These two experiences have come together in this piece. It combines concerns about the ever-present climate emergency with a focus on the human cost of that devastation. Through it we can consider the human migrant and the migrating climate with empathy and action.

The performer in the video is Balinda Craig-Quijada, with whom I share concerns about the perils that immigrants face. This collaboration has generated two more projects under this title. The first is a short experimental film, and the other is a group work choreographed for dancers at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. My video scenography combines imagery from both the film and this installation at the Gund Gallery. The music for the dance project is by Charlotte Malin and is amplified by audio from various bodies of water that I have recorded, from the Indian Ocean to the Southern Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea.

Balinda Craig Quijada is Professor of Dance at Kenyon College
Charlotte Malin is an independent composer based in Northampton, Massachusetts

Artist’s Talk:
Passages: The (Snow) Migrant and other tales
Community Foundation Theatre at the Gund Gallery
May 7, 2023 at 4:00 p.m.

Claudia Esslinger will give an artist’s talk in the Community Foundation Theatre at Gund Gallery on Sunday, May 7, 2023 at 4 pm. The presentation will include video related to her current installation in the Gund Gallery: The (Snow) Migrant, as well as references to other recent projects.

Esslinger Bio:
Esslinger is a visual artist working experimentally with a variety of materials including time-based media and sculptural installations. A cornerstone of her practice is her collaboration with a wide variety of thinkers, makers and movers, from scientists and writers, to dancers and musicians. She has been the recipient of seven Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Excellence awards and has held numerous residencies. Originally from Long Island, N.Y., Esslinger now resides in Gambier, Ohio where she teaches digital media and installation art at Kenyon College.

Image Above: Claudia Esslinger (American), The (Snow) Migrant, 2021, Video projection, sandbag geography and performance by Balinda Craig-Quijada, 12 x 22 x 21 feet. Courtesy of the artist.