“The indigenous Australian people relate to the world in a way that has had a powerful effect on me,” writes artist Dennis Summers. Inspired in part by this living, collaborative relationship between the Aboriginal people and their land, and at the same time personally compelled to respond through art to ecological damage, Summers has been creating a series of memorials called “crying posts” around the world.
Each post consists of a painted wooden staff rising about nine feet into the air. At the top is a solar-powered “cry” generator, which, when it is activated by the sun, emits tones of varying lengths that can be heard for up to forty feet. Fibers attached to each post whip and flutter in the wind, as if making visible this “cry.”
Summers created the first crying post in Australia to call attention to the tragic history of the original peoples and the ongoing salinization of huge tracts of farmland. The second post went up at the Cherokee Court House in Gore, Oklahoma, just across the road from Sequoyah Fuels Corp., a uranium processing factory that closed down after a series of fatal accidents and uranium leaks. Besides referring to that toxic atmosphere, it calls attention to the genocide of the Cherokee people during the infamous Trail of Tears. Other posts stand near Sellafield, England, the location of one of only two uranium processing plants left in the world, and in Bhopal, India, where a chemical gas spill at the Union Carbide plant in 1984 killed and injured tens of thousands of people. Ten posts now shimmer and wail around the world.
“I can’t change what happened or solve an environmental tragedy,” Summers has said, “but I can acknowledge the pain. I can bear witness to the suffering.”