Hundreds of ants industriously eat away at a map of the world in Rivane Neuenschwander’s video work, Contingent (2008) (below). Made of honey, the map slowly disintegrates into nothingness as the formidable continents shrink into smaller islands- mere specks of their former grandeur. This insect frenzy is a metaphor for the poignant and fraught relationship between consumption and the environment; it queries the consumptive habits of humankind and the detrimental consequences such consumption wreaks upon the natural world. While nourishment for ants is a necessity, the reasons for our environmental extortion might not always be deemed essential.
Part of The World Over, a group exhibition curated by Scott McLeod currently on view at Prefix Institute of Contemporary art in Toronto, Neuenscheander’s video thematically links the first work seen upon entering the exhibit, Cuban artist Glenda León’s photograph Between Air and Dreams (2003), with Donna Conlon’s video and photographs of ants, installed in the main space of the gallery. León’s work comprises an image of clouds, assembled into a map of the world while Conlon’s series Coexistence (2003/2008) depicts leaf-cutter ants carrying near-microscopic pieces of various national flags. León’s cloud continents, those fickle and ever changing bits of the atmosphere, speak to Earth’s future as contingent rather than immutable while the harsh borders of nationality are imagined as collapsed, again by the industry of ants, in Conlon’s film and photographs. In all cases, nature reigns supreme while the constructed borders humankind ironically fall prey to the whims of the natural.
These and other works on view in The World Over at Prefix Institute of Contemporary art in Toronto from May 2 through June 22, 2013.
These latest sculptures by New York-based artist Amy Brener are something magical. Made of a combination of materials like resin, pigment, and glass (Brener describes these as “totemic structures…of an imagined future,”) these objects combine natural and artificial aesthetics to create something familiar yet strangely distant from a what we know. As the artist describes:
“Some sculptures may be markers for an unknown border, while others hint at vehicular function. Some surfaces are ordered into compositions that allude to touch-screen platforms, energy cells and the digital logic of a different reality. Other surfaces are left to chance: to crystallize, crack under pressure and weather with time. Common sculpture materials such as resin and concrete shed their associations and morph into geological forms. I enforce approximations of natural processes onto my sculptures. Notions of sedimentation, erosion and fossilization come into play.”
See more of Brener’s work at her website here. And read more at her MoMA Studio Visit Page here.
In his project 5 Landscape Modes, Vancouver-based photographic artist Jason Gowans studies the structural implications of photographed landscapes. Exploring simultaneously the second and third dimensions, Gowans carefully deconstructs a images and rearranges them to create new landscapes with a restored depth. The result is a series of photographs that offer thoughtful alternatives to the conventional landscape practice. Gowans expands on his process:
“This show was created from physical objects. I built maquettes using found negatives, my own photographs, and images from the Internet. I photographed them to create several angles, exposures, shadows
I took many cues from Robert Smithson’s Non-Sites, Michael Snow’s La Région Centrale, and western movie sets.”
These sculptures by Tania Kovats draw from geography as an historical record. Her works take on the appearance of sections of the earth, extracted from their origins and constructed with both scientific and artistic precision. Paradoxically both abstract and accurate, these various geo-projects are Kovats’ own interpretations of the landscape genre. As the artist describes,
“The landscapes that interest me the most are geologically explicit landscapes where you can clearly read the narrative of formation or erosion. This leads me to landscapes that are often remote – cliff edges, deserts, odd geological incidents… The way our experience of landscape is culturally mediated is of central concern to me. Much of my thinking over the last few years has meant I have looked to geology to help read landscape to further understand how landscapes are made outside of what we affect upon them. No landform exists forever but only within a particular time span in the earth’s history. I see landscape as a series of incidents coming into being.”