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Through Aug 11: Asia Society presents COAL + ICE climate change programs

(May 2024) — This month, Shall We Gather at the River – a musical call to climate action
delivered through powerful performances of J.S. Bach’s cantatas and Black American spirituals –
debuts in its world premiere at Park Avenue Armory (May 21). Staged by celebrated director
Peter Sellars, the production is co-commissioned and co-presented with Asia Society as part of
its exhibition and programming initiative COAL + ICE: Inspiring Climate Action Through Art and
Ideas, and features performances by the Baroque ensemble Oxford Bach Soloists under the
direction of Tom Hammond-Davies, the Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street,
countertenor Reginald Mobley, tenor Nick Pritchard, bass Jonathan Woody, soprano Molly
Quinn, and sheng player Wu Tong, with original choreography by Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray.

The centerpiece of COAL + ICE is a powerful immersive photography and video exhibition
(through Aug 11), which focuses on both consequences and solutions to the global climate crisis.
The ongoing programs include an evening with environmentalist Bill McKibben in conversation
with epidemiological-spatial analyst and past president of the Sierra Club Aaron Mair (May 14);
and the world premiere of Susie Ibarra’s Sky Islands, performed by her eight-piece ensemble –
the Extended Filipino Talking Gong Ensemble with Claire Chase on flute, Alex Peh on piano,
and Levy Lorenzo and Ibarra on percussion – along with the Bergamot Quartet (July 18 & 20).
Leading up to the Sky Islands premiere will be a work-in-progress performance, with a panel
discussion afterward bringing together artistic and scientific voices on the biodiverse ecosystems
that inspired the work. Ibarra will be joined by Brown University biogeochemist Daniel Ibarra
and two Filipino scientists working in Luzon (May 28). Collaborative programs and panel
discussions will also take place throughout June, with partners including Melting Metropolis, the
Climate Jobs National Resource Center, and others.

Shall We Gather at the River

Presented in the Park Avenue Armory’s monumental Wade Thompson Drill Hall for one night only
on May 21, Shall We Gather at the River centers on the power and transcendental dimensions of
water, interweaving emotive songs of resistance and renewal such as “Wade in the Water” and
“Deep River” with three Bach cantatas that evoke images of water in drought and full flood.
Oxford Bach Soloists Artistic Director Tom Hammond-Davies elaborates:

“In this momentous project, we transcend time and space to bring Bach’s eternal music into the
contemporary world, addressing pressing global issues. Bach’s universal perspective illuminates
the shared human experience of our planet, our collective home. As we unite from three
continents to deliver this vital existential message, we embrace the profound responsibility of
awakening minds and hearts, and it’s an immense honour to collaborate with Peter Sellars and
Asia Society in this transformative project at the Armory. I am incredibly proud to be making our
U.S. debut in New York, delivering this profound and timely message to audiences far and wide.”

Orville Schell, Asia Society Vice President and Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China
Relations, adds:

“What does the music of J.S. Bach have in common with Black American spirituals? They are both
heartfelt musical expressions of the frailty of life and the abuses we humans have too often
heaped on our planet and our fellow inhabitants. So let’s all “gather at the river that flows by the
throne of God” and see if we can get inspired to do something.”

This musical gathering conceived by Sellars – who returns to the Armory following his direction
of the celebrated productions of St. Matthew Passion in 2014, FLEXN in 2015, FLEXN Evolution in
2017, and Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) in 2022 – features a powerhouse group of performers
performing a selection of cantatas and spirituals that flow seamlessly into one another, while
dancers perform new choreography from Flex pioneer Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray, who co-directed
the FLEXN performances. Sellars, who calls African American spirituals “the music of survival
itself” and each Bach cantata “a moment of refuge and renewal” that is “inspiring, empowering,
personal, urgent and true,” comments:

“The details and consequences of serious shifts in our atmosphere, in the health of our soil and
water, and the accelerating extinction of species across the last three decades – our lifetimes – can
and must be described in technical and scientific language. But what the natural world is signaling
to the human race is so much more demanding and direct – we are not living well.
“We need to stop, regroup, reorient, reassess, and redirect our most basic life choices.”

About COAL + ICE

Asia Society presents this immersive photography and video exhibition, which brings to life the
environmental and human costs of climate change, while also highlighting the innovative
solutions that provide hope for a more sustainable future. At once intimate and universal, the
powerful images capture the human face of climate change across the globe.

Comprising the work of more than 30 photographers from China and around the world, the
exhibition traces a photographic arc from deep within coal mines to the melting glaciers of the
greater Himalaya and across the globe, where rising sea levels and extreme weather events are
wreaking havoc. The imagery in COAL + ICE is drawn from diverse materials, from glass-plate
negatives to smartphone videos, spanning more than a century. Through intimate portraits and
vast altered landscapes, these photographs document the consequences triggered by our
continued reliance on fossil fuels.

The third floor of the exhibition takes things a step further to reflect the innovative ideas for
climate solutions that have germinated most recently, with Maya Lin, Jake Barton (of Local
Projects), and Superflux contributing to the actions we can take collectively. Superflux, the
London-based, international award-winning design firm co-founded by Anab Jain and Jon Arden,
has created New York 2050, a fully-immersive, multi-sensory installation, in the final section of
COAL + ICE. As visitors enter the space, experience what New York actually looked like in 2023,
when Canadian fires coated its skies with a thick orange smog. The second space is a 360-degree,
slow-moving, visual rendering of what the city could look like in 2050, with utopian views of
self-sustaining rooftop, balcony, and indoor farms, pedestrian walkways and riverboats in place
of cars, and wind and solar energy in place of coal and gas.

The mission of COAL + ICE is to bring awareness to and inspire action on the climate crisis. By
providing an immersive experience of a recent environmental catastrophe and then showing
what is an equally realistic future, New York 2050 sparks the imagination viscerally and urges
visitors to personally take part in building a healthier and more sustainable environment.

COAL + ICE premiered in Beijing in 2011. Over the past 12 years, it has traveled to Shanghai and
Yixian in China, and internationally to Paris, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., using art to
highlight the need for collaboration between the largest global carbon emitters – the U.S. and
China – in addressing the climate challenge. In 2018, COAL + ICE made its U.S. premiere on the
West Coast as a fully immersive experience and expanded its imagery to visualize the global
consequences of the climate crisis.

COAL + ICE was conceived by Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of Asia Society’s Center on
U.S.-China Relations and renowned photographer Susan Meiselas.

About Asia Society

Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller III, Asia Society is an educational institution based in New
York with 16 locations in the United States, Europe, and Asia including state-of-the-art cultural
centers and gallery spaces in Hong Kong and Houston. Through exhibitions and public programs,
Asia Society in New York provides a forum for the issues and viewpoints reflected in both
traditional and contemporary Asian art, and in Asia today.

COAL + ICE Events

All events are at Asia Society Museum, 725 Park Avenue, New York, NY unless otherwise specified

May 14
An evening with environmentalist Bill McKibben in conversation with Aaron Mair,
epidemiological-spatial analyst and past president of the Sierra Club

May 21
Park Avenue Armory
Shall We Gather at the River (world premiere, co-commissioned and co-presented with Asia
Molly Quinn, soprano
Reginald Mobley, countertenor
Nick Pritchard, tenor
Jonathan Woody, bass
Wu Tong, sheng
Oxford Bach Soloists
The Choir of Trinity Wall Street
Conductor: Tom Hammond-Davies
Director: Peter Sellars
Choreographer: Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray and members of the flexing community
Lighting & Set Designer: Seth Reiser
Sound Designer: Mark Grey

May 28
Sky Islands work-in-progress and panel discussion
Extended Filipino Talking Gong Ensemble with Claire Chase, flute; Alex Peh, piano; Levy Lorenzo
and Susie Ibarra, percussion
Bergamot Quartet
Panel discussion: Brown University biogeochemist Daniel Ibarra and two Filipino scientists
working in Luzon

June 3
“Food for our Future”
Confirmed speakers: Uma Valeti, Chloe Sorvino, Gary Hirshberg (MyForest Foods)
Program topic: plant-based climate-friendly food solutions

June 5
International climate justice panel discussion led by Brad Adams, founder of Climate Rights

June 8
Collaborative program with Melting Metropolis: “Drawing Heat” workshop

June 12
Collaborative program with Climate Jobs National Resource Center

July 18 & 20
Susie IBARRA: Sky Islands (world premiere)
Extended Filipino Talking Gong Ensemble with Claire Chase, flute; Alex Peh, piano; Levy Lorenzo
and Susie Ibarra, percussion
Bergamot Quartet

July TBC

Screenings with Climate Film Festival of Invisible Demons and others

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© 21C Media Group, May 2024

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