Visual artist Marek Ranis incorporates social, political, and ecological issues into his multimedia pieces. The assistant art history professor at UNC Charlotte is currently working on the subject of “Albedo,” or Whiteness, within a social and historical context, which he started in response to his research into global climate change. Originally from Poland, he received the 2012-2013 N.C. Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award, which gives $10,000 to each artist to support their projects. Joanne Spataro
Q. What is your current focus? My ongoing research about global warming, but more particularly now looking at relations between climate change or environment in the context of post-colonial theory. I see a strong relationship between global warning and post-colonialism in general. My current work is video, installation and sculpture. It’s very multi-media.
Q. How does war influence your work? In the show in March, it was a compilation of World War II images of my hometown in Poland before the war and after the war. U.S. events such as WWI and WII were big tragic events, but on the global scale were major factors in shaping post-colonial times. Because of those two wars, countries like India were able to gain independence. For me as somebody from a country that was extremely affected by WWI, it’s a strange way to look at it. But it’s a perspective that is not often recognized in U.S.-centric circles or by modern history in general.
Q. What made you want to take on this topic? Through my research about global warming, I travel a lot. Science (also) informs my art. If I want to talk about things like that (global warming), I have to learn enough to be competent enough to understand what’s going on. And of course not to claim that I know anything. It’s a way to be smart enough to stay informed.
Q. Since much of your work is in both Europe and America, what is the difference in viewers’ reactions? There is something special in America and Charlotte. People are much more willing, especially at the openings, to talk to others, much more open to engage in some kind of conversation. They ask questions and are more willing to say I don’t understand or question the work. I really enjoy that exchange more than Europe where people are a little bit more jaded and they feel like they don’t want to show they don’t know something.
Q. With Superstorm Sandy, do you think people will take a more critical eye towards your theme of global warming? People who go to galleries are leaning towards the same viewpoints as you. (It is unlikely) that I’m going to change somebody’s opinion. I’m always very cautious about expecting that art can change somebody’s opinion. I’m hoping it may cause some moment of reflection.