Arts & Entertainment

“Prelude to 2100,” an immersive experience into the climate threat to Miami

By Emilio J. Lopez

Miami, Feb 3 (EFE).- It is the year 2050. The Deering Estate, an enormous property in southern Miami has ceased being merely a museum and is welcoming climate refugees from all over the world. That is the premise for “Prelude to 2100,” an unsettling immersive show that no longer seems like science fiction and which opens to the public on Thursday.

This original multidisciplinary project commissioned by artist Susan Caraballo is being offered within the framework of the events organized to commemorate the centennial of the historic Stone House at the Deering Estate, which was the home of magnate Charles Deering (1852-1927) and houses a unique collection of Spanish artwork and antiques.

In “Prelude to 2100,” the Deering property is transformed into a nighttime artistic experience that integrates theater, dance, music, “performances” and visual arts with a concrete objective: raising awareness about the great challenge posed by climate change and what the capacity of society and the government is to confront it, Caraballo told EFE.

This prelude to a world radically altered by climate change and sea level rise is set in 2050, in a partially flooded Miami, when the residents of the museum-home decide to organize an open house to interview and welcome new potential members to their community.

In “Prelude,” the sea level has risen three feet and Miami is a city with a completely different landscape from the current one that real estate companies are eagerly marketing, Caraballo, who is also the producer of the work, said.

Very committed since 2016 to creating environmental and ecological works – her earlier work being titled “The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be” – this interdisciplinary artist is critical of the “very poor” response capability on the international level of the government in dealing with the effects of natural disasters and catastrophes like those caused by hurricanes.

She gave as one example the “magnitude of the disaster” in Puerto Rico wrought by the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the displacement of a large part of the island’s population, rendering them without basic supplies.

Although the storm was a natural event beyond human control, governments are not taking into account the way in which natural cycles and transformation times have accelerated, she said.

Given the fact that a large part of the South Florida coastline has been converted into a seaside mangrove swamp due to sea level rise, Carballo wants society and the ruling classes to become aware of the urgent need to act now.

That is, she said, the “leitmotif of the work,” the plot of which and its interactive nature with the public play themselves out in the open air outside the museum in an illuminated area filled with trees, vegetation and pathways.

The action begins with a series of encounters with sites where one can exchange dollars for the currency hypothetically in use in 2050 at the Miami Time Bank, with which one can buy food or go to a department store and bookstore to acquire all sorts of items used by the residents of the Stone House.

The actors play the residents of the new complex in scenes that are interwoven with the text filled with dystopic elements written by dramatist Juan C. Sanchez, who also authored the immersive “Miami Motel Stories.”

The immersive artistic experience kicks off with a dance piece and a monologue by one of the residents – Colombian-Cuban actor Rio Chavarro – who addresses the public gathered there to explain that “we’re not separated from nature” and to lambaste the sugar industry for contaminating the soil and air in South Florida.

The result is three hours of theater pieces and events that invite viewers to reflect and pose the unavoidable question whether Miami will be habitable in 2100 or – like the greater part of Miami-Dade County – will be just uninhabited grass- or swampland.

The plot of the work is enriched with strange occurrences that make “Prelude” a chronicle of daily life and conflicts among the residents of the complex, a storyline that is filled with “magical realism and speculative fiction” within a group of climate refugees, according to Caraballo, who co-directs the event with Jennifer de Castroverde.

Although this future seems far away, significant changes to the climate are “just around the corner” and this isn’t a problem for the next generation but for everyone, requiring the attention of each of us to solve, Kathryn Garcia, the event’s producer, told EFE.

One of the virtues of “Prelude to 2100,” said Garcia, who is the executive director of Live Arts Miami at Miami Dade College, lies in the fact that it transports you into the future and confronts the changes in the environment that “await us in Miami.”

The aim of the director, Garcia said, is not to create more anxiety among viewers but rather to “broaden our imagination” so that we can think in a “more creative way about our future.”

Co-produced with Live Arts Miami and about 30 creators based in South Florida, the work proposes a revision of humanity’s relationship with nature and for people to feel “empowered” now to do things that will have a “positive future impact,” Garcia said optimistically.

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