This American, Dystopian Life. A Conversation on Polarity with Zy Baer

OPEN AIR Artist Feature
Written by Amy Parker, AIGA Boston

BOSTON, MA ― “I envisioned a building enveloped by the water…” said artist Zy Baer about Polarity.

Visible at the Channel’s floating art site called the “Art Basin,” a corner of what looks like a historic Fort Point industrial building is surrounded by sea, both sinking and floating in its glory of quantum entanglement. 

Zy Baer invites you to face your dystopian reality. I’m not talking about a science fiction society like Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, Orwell’s 1984, or Gilliam’s Brazil, but the metaverse-unplugged reality we are already plunged into – a relentless frigid sea, rising with wrath, seeking to drown our homes.

The work titled Polarity, shows us the inevitable result of our climate crisis that will hit Fort Point and Seaport neighborhoods in the coming decades. With rising sea levels, buildings will continue to flood. Homes will be ruined. Polarity is one artist’s lens for people to plug in.

Zy and I met during the construction of Polarity by chance, while on a walk with my favorite local artist and friend, Bebe Beard. The structure of the work was large scale and struck attention because of its displaced mannerism on the hard pavement against a cream sky. 

In further email correspondence and on a Zoom interview a month later, Zy mentioned “People thought [the artwork] was a set piece for Adam McKay’s film, Don’t Look Up, which shot some scenes in the neighborhood.” 

Zy and I discussed how their art serves as a pathway to a deeper perception of this crisis we face. “…illustrating the impending future if we don’t take drastic steps to mitigate current trends… [The work is] meant to be a handwritten invitation – an extremely narrow doorway into a massive cavern – it has a specific audience and a specific message that I hope effectively communicates the urgency and gravity of the situation. It’s quite literally an in-your-face approach.” The audience Zy addresses is that of socioeconomic and political power. 

For Zy, there is no way to pull the climate crisis out of politics and tangled systems of both the privileged and the oppressed. “We are all interconnected in that our actions affect others, but we’re not all working from the same starting point. [The wealthy are] better positioned to fight against our climate crisis – when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you have limited bandwidth for activities that don’t contribute to paying rent and putting food on the table.”

Perhaps through Polarity viewers will welcome a different sea change. “My work spans a range of themes,” Zy reflects, “…Ultimately, the uniting thread throughout my work is a drive to take invisible, abstract, or intricate concepts and grapple with them through installations and sculptural works.” As a person fascinated with systems and how they interact, Zy sees societal shifts need to be stimulated by people in power with persuasive sway. “Everything is political.” 

Zy’s launch team for the work included Don Eyles, Patrick Bowler, Jeff Smith, and Adam Frawley alongside other volunteers to pull Polarity from the parking lot into the water. Fort Point Art Community (FPAC) Executive Director Kelly Pederson, and both Raber Umphenour and Scott Lindberg were instrumental in realizing the work. 

Check out for a full list of credits and to learn more about the work.

About the writer:

Amy Parker is VP of Programming for the AIGA Boston Board. She is a working designer and agency owner of Woods Creative.

By Amy Parker
Published June 2, 2022