REVIEW | Many Things Brought From One Climate to Another
March 3, 2016
Many Things Brought From One Climate to Another
Art Gallery of Ontario
The acquisitions of contemporary art by museums is not a rare occurrence, but viewing recent purchases as a group and being afforded the opportunity to consider them as a small collection often is. Many Things Brought From One Climate to Another at the Art Gallery of Ontario is precisely that unique chance to consider artworks from distances as vast and varied as the artists who make them.
The works of art on view revealed current artistic thinking and how artists are communicating their navigation of the complexities of contemporary life while simultaneously asking us to consider the diverse textures of present-day experience, the lingering effects of the past, and the challenges we face in creating more equitable societies. I find the combination of the past, the present (often within one piece) very interesting; and these favorites conjured both idyllic and troubling notions of the future.
Animal pelts and silky textiles hang from black plastic twist ties on rolling clothing racks while oversized photographs of a beautiful female look on, cropped and printed on bubblegum pink fabric stapled to the wall in a collection of works by Duane Linklater (pictured above and here). An Omaskêko Cree from Moose Cree First Nation in Northern Ontario, Linklater masterfully raises questions of authenticity, appropriation, and history; but in this unique pairing, he also addresses the inconsistencies of history, knowledge, and modern understanding of the memories, migrations, and lives of native peoples. All of which is essential if there is to be a deliberate conversation about loss and recovery, personally, nationally, and globally.
A work of art in the form of a quantity of coins equal to the number of months of the statistical life expectancy of a child born January 6, 1995 by Micah Lexier documents not only the passage of time (and of life); but also the human experience that is both messy and orderly, and often at the same time. Translating the intimate yet statistical act of growing older into visual data, Lexier has fabricated nine hundred and six unique coins to tick down the statistical life expectancy of an imagined child born on this date. Each coin is numbered and on the 6th day of each month, one coin is transferred from the orderly rows of the origin box to the chaotic pile of the destination box – this process will continue until all the coins have been transferred.* Of important note, the coins are transferred by un-gloved hands so that each individual’s fingerprints mark a coin and become part of the work. This requirement of human contact every month suggests that we cannot live our lives alone and must depend on the care and assistance of others; and also reflects that although each coin (each individual) begins life identically, as it traverses another’s path (or hand) it becomes visibly and distinctly different. Lexier, in a quite simple act, reflects the value of the individual but also highlights the existence and necessity of something much bigger, and the fact that he chose to do so in the language of money makes the piece all the more poignant.
In the 1920s, unbeknownst to many, automobile visionary and manufacturer Henry Ford created an industrial city and rubber plantation designed to produce the largest amount of rubber in the world on the banks of the River Tapajos in the Brazilian part of the Amazon. Ford’s ambitions, reflective of American ingenuousness and colonization, battles the Amazonian jungle in an absurd endeavor; and despite the vast investment, the project/dream failed when very little latex was extracted. The natural indigenous life of the region, its flora and fauna ultimately withstood Ford’s colonial visions and the settlement was abandoned some twenty years later. Fordlandia, a still from the thirty-minute video by artist Melanie Smith, provides a critical reflection of not just Ford’s mêlée with the Amazon, but many of the aggressive and romantic portrayals of this intense landscape. It is (according to the artist) a “voyage of (de)colonization whereby the drifts and detours of modernity in uncertain places are highlighted, turning away from whatever their historical imaginaries were. The tensions between industrial and natural landscape are leveled off in a certain horizontality of hierarchies between form and content, and at the same time the animal re-signifies the possibilities of the community of the living.” The still, exhibited here, is exquisitely soft in its pale pink hues; effectively communicating the very disorienting and abstract experience of migration: of travel, and adventure, and utopian aspirations as we both individually and collectively search for a brave new world.**
*If you are interested in joining Lexier’s coin transfer, you can! The work acts as a rite of passage that AGO visitors can witness over the course of their own lives—and, from now until until July 6, 2070, members of the public are invited to participate in this monthly activation. If you are interested in transferring a coin, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Images (from top to bottom):Duane Linklater, Little Ghosts, 2014, 3 mink furs, plastic tie, rolling rack, metal hanger, variable dimensions; Duane Linklater, Kiss, 2014, 2 fox furs, rolling rack, metal hanger, variable dimensions and Family Photograph, 2014, Inkjet print on hand dyed linen, nails, 2 prints at 44 x 90 inches and The most beautiful thing in the world, 2014, 1 skunk fur, synthetic cloth, house paint, 2 hangers, variable dimensions; Micah Lexier, A work of art in the form of a quantity of coins equal to the number of months of the statistical life expectancy of a child born January 6, 1995, 1995, metal, wood and enamel paint; Melanie Smith, Fordlandia, still, 30min – HD – color – quadraphonic (4.0) film.