Sounds From Dangerous Places: Sonic Journalism

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-07-01 12:37:54

Peter Cusack, Bibi Heybat Oilfield, Baku, Azerbaijan

Ferris wheel in Chernobyl exclusion zone. Photo Peter Cusack

Peter Cusack is a field recordist, musician and researcher who has traveled to areas of major environmental devastation, nuclear sites, big landfill dumps, edges of military zones and other potentially dangerous places. He has been to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone; the Caspian Oil Fields in Azerbaijan; 'London Gateway' the new port on the River Thames where massive dredging severely damages the underwater environment; the Aral Sea, Kazakhstan, which is now being partially restored after virtually disappearing due to catastrophic water misuse.

While most of these locations have been extensively discussed in articles and documented in images, we don't know what a day in any of these places sounds like. With his field recordings, however, Cusack gives us an idea of what a radiometer with a cuckoo in the background in Pripyat sounds like. Or what it is like to hear the wind whistling by the Sizewell nuclear power stations. These recording belong to a practice that the artist calls sonic journalism. The discipline is an audio complement and companion to images and language. Using field recordings and careful listening, sonic journalism provides valuable insights into the atmosphere of a particular site.

You can listen to some of the field recordings online (Sounds from Chernobyl + Caspian Oil and UK Sites.) Some are very moving. All made me want to contact Peter Cusack and ask him a few questions:


Hi Peter! The public is now used to seeing images of dangerous places. Focusing on sound recordings from these same places, however, is less banal. What can sound communicate that an image cannot convey?

Field recordings are very good at communicating the atmosphere of places. They also give a good sense of space (distance, position, how things are moving) and timing of any events happening. I think this is important because it gives a sense of what it might be like to actually be there and allows you to think about what you might feel, or how you might react if present. I don't really agree that images are more banal (some recordings are also). It depends on the image. For me a better impression is given when images, sounds and language are working together. Most reportage uses images and language but not the sounds, which means we are usually missing the aural information. This is a pity because it can be very informative and expressive.

Peter Cusack, Ship's Graveyard, Aral Sea, Kazakhstan

Bibi Heybat oilfield. Photo Peter Cusack

Some of the sounds you collected are seducing and fascinating. The ones you recorded in the Chernobyl exclusion zone are particularly charming, even the Cuckoo and radiometer has some poetry in it. So how do you suggest the sense of danger to the listener?

Yes, sometimes they are a complete contrast to a sense of danger. However they are part of the the larger whole. Most dangerous places are very complex. For me it's important to suggest the complexity and the contradictions that are present. That way one gets a more complete picture, e.g it may seem a contradiction that the Chernobyl exclusion zone is now a wonderful nature reserve. That is definitely to be contrasted with state of human health there.

Shoes in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Photo Peter Cusack

Photo Peter Cusack

Photo Peter Cusack

Photo Peter Cusack

View of Pripyat. Photo Peter Cusack

Is it easier to get access to these locations as a sound artist than as a photographer? I imagine that people in charge of a military site or a particularly environment-damaging oil field will be wary of a photographer but might underestimate the strength of a sound recording. Do you find that you face the same resistance and restriction when you record ambient sound than when you take photos?

The only place where i had access to a place where photographers cannot not go was the Jaguar car factory in Liverpool, where they are paranoid about industrial espionage from rival car manufacturers. At Chernobyl they give anyone access if you can pay the entry fees.

In places where you don't get permission it depends on how obvious you are. Large microphones are as visible as large cameras. I often use small equipment which is not easy to see. However, it's true that security guards don't know about recording equipment compared to cameras.

The UK now is very security conscious. I've been stopped at places for recording and for just standing in the wrong place not recording or photographing.
These days it helps to know the law regarding recording of any kind.

Bradwell, UK. Photo Peter Cusack

Lakenheath runway. Photo Peter Cusack

The first recordings of the series dedicated to the oil industry were made in 2004 at the Bibi Heybat oil field, in Azerbaijan. Why did you start there? Was it a conscious decision to start in that location or did you find yourself there for another reason and the idea emerged then to start a new body of work?

i was in Azerbaijan for a holiday. i did not know the oil fields were there, so it was a very lucky accident from which the project grew.

You see Sounds from Dangerous Places as a form of 'Sonic Journalism'. Yet, you are a sound artist, so what makes your work an artwork rather than merely a 'sound reportage'?

My interest is to document places as best i can (audio recording, photography plus any other kind of material or research) so that anyone listening/reading can get an idea of the place itself and the relevant issues. this material gets used for a variety of purposes - sound art, cds, radio, education, talks, installations. whether it is art, documentary or journalism is not so important to me.

Oil field. Photo Peter Cusack

Are there dangerous places you wish you could go to or sounds you wish you could capture, only they are out of reach for some reason?

Yes, many. most military areas are completely impossible to get into. So are a lots of industrial sites, nuclear power stations, etc. Sometimes official tours are organised but usually these are useless for recording, which takes time to do properly without other people talking or getting in the way all the time. However it's sometimes possible to make interesting and valuable recordings from outside the fences.

Other places are really, and personally, dangerous like war zones. My project concentrates on environmentally dangerous place. War zones are not part of this and i've no wish to get killed.

After this exploration of the energy industry, you are planning to explore global water issues. Can you tell us a bit more about this project? Your website states that the work will include the dam projects in Turkey. Why do these dams strike you as representative of the global water problems? Where else will the project take you?

The Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. the aral sea was once the 4th largest lake in the world. today it has almost dried up because the water flowing into it is diverted into major irrigation schemes far up stream. The disappearance of the sea has been disastrous for the local climate and huge fishing industry that once supplied the Soviet Union with 25% of its fresh water fish.

The Kazakhs are now trying to restore a small part of the sea with support from the world bank. This has been quite successful and the fishing industry has re-started bring the economy back to some of the fishing villages. the wildlife has returned and so has the climate. I have travelled there twice so far - very interesting.

Thanks Peter!


Check out the CDs and accompanying book that bring together extensive field recordings, photos and writing from the work in Chernobyl, Caspian oil, and UK sites.

Sounds From Dangerous Places is part of HLYSNAN: The Notion and Politics of Listening at the Casino de Luxembourg until 7.9.2014.

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From Soviet dial-less phone to post-surveillance art. Things i've seen in London this month

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-06-30 13:42:10

I see far more exhibitions than i can blog (i could but i'm fairly lazy, you see.) So this morning, i went through all the photos i took in London galleries and museum in June and threw them hastily in this almost laconic post in case you're in town and bored. Being bored in London seems to be my latest obsession but that's another story.

Here we go...

Home-made apparatus to test if a detector would work on Mars, c. 1960s. Object no. 2012-125 © Science Museum, James Lovelock

The ever fabulous Science Museum has a small show about the work of scientist and inventor James Lovelock. I spotted this apparatus to test if a detector would work on Mars. Lovelock built it in his home lab in the 1960s while working on NASA's Viking Mission to Mars. It is made with an ordinary kitchen jar and lid. The detector was sealed inside the jar and air was removed via the valve on the left to replicate Martian atmospheric pressure.


Check out the Exponential Horn while you're in the building.

Paul Granjon, Biting Machine

Speaking of wild inventions. I caught the very last day of the Paul Granjon exhibition at Watermans. It was called Is Technology Eating My Brain? and it was very very funny. It's not every day that i laugh my face off all alone in an art gallery. The show was the result of the artist's residency in the art center. He had a couple of works in the gallery (including a magnificently visitor-unfriendly Biting Machine), the rest were works made by participants of Granjon's Wrekshop. They included a slicing photo booth and a geranium survival kit.

I spent far too long watching the videos of Granjon's fancy inventions and performances:

The antigravitational vehicle for cats

I watched this one three times:

Kicked by Furman

And I now need this book: Hand-Made Machines [Includes DVD]

The show's already closed alas! but here's a few images. And a video.

The Victoria and Albert museum was showing the short listed artists and the winner of the Prix Pictet. The theme was Consumption in all its disastrous relationship to environmental sustainability.

Abraham Oghobase, Untitled

Abraham Oghobase photographed hand scribbled texts advertising the various informal services offered by people living in Lagos, a city of over ten million inhabitants and the commercial capital of Nigeria.


Michael Schmidt, Lebensmittel

In Lebensmittel, Michael Schmidt portrayed the mechanized, industrialized food system of contemporary Western culture. From pigs standing skin to skin in a factory farm to piles of discarded food. Seeing the images one next to the other up on the wall was both shaming and mesmerizing. No wonder the series won the prize.

The exhibition closed a couple of weeks ago.

Suzanne Treister, Post-Surveillance Art (POST-SURVEILLANCE ART POSTER/WORLD OPEN DAY), 2014

Suzanne Treister was investigating the rise of mass intelligence and data collection long before it became fashionable to do so.

Talking in the context of her Post-Surveillance Art series, she said that: "What has altered for me post Snowden, is not an awareness and negotiation of a changed condition, but the knowledge that now almost everybody else knows something which was clear as day if you did a bit of research, and it's great to no longer be called a conspiracy theorist."
The show closed a few days ago at Maggs Gallery. It was both dramatic and surprisingly humourous.








I have no time for design products, except when they come with a Soviet aura. The GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design is showing all kinds of plastic toys, a dial-less Telephone, red velvet flags, retro futuristic vacuum cleaners, etc.

Work and Play Behind the Iron Curtain is at the GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design until 24 August.

I also visited The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture during the press view. I can't say that was the show of my life. AT ALL! But there were a couple of works i was glad to see again....


Maurizio Cattelan, Him, 2001

and discover:

Katharina Fritsch St Katharina and 2nd Photo, 2007

The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture is at the Hayward until 7 September.

GUN Architects, Rainforest

Gun Architects's rainforest-inspired pavilion at Bedford Square for the 2014 London Festival of Architecture.

Ri Hyang Yon, 21, dancer in the Arirang Games, during a practice session in the car park, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang (Copyright: Nick Danziger)

Photojournalist Nick Danziger visited North Korea in 2013. He recorded the everyday life in the DPRK and was given rare access to cities outside Pyongyang. The story behind each photo is probably more interesting than the photos themselves. The subjects are doing very ordinary things (getting their hair done at the hairdresser, sunbathing by the sea with their kids, etc.) only it does look like the photos were taken in the past.

According to the British Council the exhibition is "the first cultural engagement of its kind" between the UK and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The Guardian adds that it opened in London with no advance publicity, for fear that the dire relations between North Korea and the west might sink the first cultural project of its kind.

Above the Line: People and Places in the DPRK (North Korea) is open at the British Council HQ in London until 25 July.


I spotted this one in the street.

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Arts Collaboratory - Grants for Art Projects

Feed : Universes in Universe - Magazine
Published on : 2014-06-30 03:52:16
For projects by arts organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East that stimulate social innovation. Deadline: 31 July 2014

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Jenn E. Norton: Dredging a Wake

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Published on : 2014-06-28 01:00:00

Art Gallery of Hamilton
Jenn E. Norton: Dredging a Wake
June 28, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Reception: Sunday, November 2, 2014


Dredging a Wake includes three installation works made up of video art, projection and sculpture. Each piece invites immersion, whether through the physical space of the installation or the projections that surround the viewer. At the heart of the exhibition is the notion that information is increasingly unwieldy, as we have stored our important data, documents and images on so many different media throughout the past century. From filing cabinets to cloud computing, we have been saving our precious materials in immaterial ways. Playful yet ominous, the artworks refer to a dark abyss, referencing cyclones, sinkholes and black holes, as metaphors for the unknowns of changing archival processes.

Precipice is a circular room that visitors can enter to become surrounded by projections of swirling water and a virtual swimmer, who navigates a vitreous chasm, seemingly in search of something. Doline is a sculptural installation of office fixtures that seem to be submerged in the floor, and slowly rotate to the soundtrack of people remembering their dreams about falling (sound piece by Delia Derbyshire and Barry Bermange). Doldrums uses 3D glasses, multiple projections and mirrors to duplicate an image of the viewer, furthering a sense of disorientation while reiterating the role we all play in this era of the digital abyss.

Jenn E. Norton is an early career artist based in Guelph, and this is her first major exhibition in a public gallery. This piece was commissioned within the Interactive Digital Media Incubator program at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, which was made possible with the generous support of the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Museums and Technology Fund.

Curated by Melissa Bennett, AGH Curator of Contemporary Art


The Art Gallery of Hamilton is located at 123 King Street West, downtown Hamilton, Ontario, L8P 4S8.

Museum Hours
Tuesday & Wednesday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.;
Saturday-Sunday, 12 noon-5 p.m.

AGH Members: Free; Adults, $10; Students/Seniors, $8; Children (6-17), $4; under 5 years, Free.
Friday Free Night: Free admission on the first Friday of the month.

[T] 905.527.6610

Image credit:
still from Precipice (2014)
interactive video installation


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David Thauberger: Road Trips & Other Diversions

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Published on : 2014-06-28 01:00:00

Save the Date! Upcoming Programs at the Art Gallery of Windsor

David Thauberger, Rainbow Danceland, 1979; acrylic, glitter on canvas; 128.3 x 177.8 cm.
Collection of the Glenbow Museum, Calgary.


July 12, 2 pm
Join AGW Director Catharine Mastin for a walk-through exhibition tour of David Thauberger: Road Trips & Other Diversions, where she will highlight key works and concepts in the artist’s practice.

September 12, 7–10 pm
Join us for Fridays Live! a closing reception to celebrate the retrospective exhibition David Thauberger: Road Trips & Other Diversions and catalogue launch, featuring essays by Sandra Fraser, Timothy Long, Peter White, Andrew Kear, Patricia Bovey and Ted Fraser. The artist and curators will be in attendance.

September 13, 2–4 pm
Panel Discussion: Thinking Place, Thinking Region in a Globalized Environment
Join David Thauberger, the exhibition curators and writers for a lively discussion about the role of place in Thauberger’s art, and explore their views on why region and place matter in an increasingly globalized world.

Summer Exhibitions

David Thauberger: Road Trips & Other Diversions
June 28 – September 21, 2014

Join us to celebrate Road Trips & Other Diversions, the first comprehensive overview of the Canadian artist David Thauberger. The exhibition features paintings, prints and ceramics gathered from public and private collections across Canada. The installation examines key themes and working processes, developed throughout Thauberger’s more than 40 years as a maker and thinker.

Regina-based David Thauberger’s practice is characterized by his conviction that the local is as important as the global. Clusters of work by other artists, from Thauberger’s own collection, are included as contextual interpretive material and as a demonstration of his creative thought processes through collecting.

Road Trips & Other Diversions is accompanied by a documentary film, website:, app, and related programming, and a publication launch will be held in Windsor on the weekend of September 12–13, 2014. This exhibition is curated by Sandra Fraser, Mendel Art Gallery, and Timothy Long, MacKenzie Art Gallery.

Organized and circulated by the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon and the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina. This project is funded in part by the Museums Assistance Program at Canadian Heritage. Presented in Windsor with the support of The Chandisherry Foundation and The Morris and Beverly Baker Foundation.


Until September 21, 2014

With Abstract Random, Sonja Ahlers, Eleanor Bond, Allyson Clay, Erika DeFreitas, Servulo Esmeraldo, Andrew Harwood, Jesi The Elder, Hannah Jickling, Margaret Lawrence, Rita Letendre, Johnson Ngo, Bodo Pfeifer, Adee Roberson, Arthur Secunda, Fiona Smyth


The statements of the exhibition title are an acknowledgement of the dilemmas of feminist and queer cultural participation and describe the all-too-familiar push/pull of working across discourses and converging dialogues. All of the art in this exhibition incorporates abstraction — of visual codes, relationships and bodies relative to space. When we looked through the AGW collection, we discovered the same obvious holes that most collections have. There are very few pieces by artists of colour/feminist and/or queer. But as feminist curatorial scholars have noted, art history is full of holes and fissures.

The way through this is to use absences as an opportunity to create a presence. An online publication is forthcoming with this exhibition.

Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell, founding members of FAG

For more information contact Nicole McCabe at or 519-977-0013 ext. 134.

Art Gallery of Windsor, 401 Riverside Drive West, Windsor, ON N9A 7J1

Please subscribe to: get connected to receive AGW program updates!

The AGW would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario and the Canada Council for the Arts.


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Pedro Reyes | Vasco Araújo | Akram Zaatari

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Published on : 2014-06-28 01:00:00


The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery opens three provoking and exciting exhibitions by international artists Pedro Reyes, Vasco Araújo and Akram Zaatari, united in the way they uniquely question and explore ideas about ourselves, others and the world
Opening with a FREE party on Friday, 27 June, 2014

28 June – 1 September 2014
Opening Party: Friday, 27 June, 8 – 11 PM

Making its Canadian premiere at The Power Plant, Sanatorium is an artwork by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes. It is a transient clinic that provides visitors with brief, unexpected therapy sessions in an effort to cure ills associated with urban living. First presented by the Guggenheim, New York in 2011, Sanatorium has since traveled to venues including Whitechapel Gallery, London (2013) and dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012). For its iteration at The Power Plant, Reyes offers a new therapy entitled The Extraction of the Cop in the Head, an exercise devised to curb self-censorship in the face of oppressive situations. The procedures for each session are always prepared by Reyes and carried out by volunteer participants who are trained by the artist. It is through this involvement of non-professionals that Reyes challenges the notion of hierarchy, in the process transforming the gallery into a site for democratized psychological processes.
This exhibition is curated by Gaëtane Verna. More info

Enjoy the exclusive opportunity to see Pedro Reyes talk about his work and his practice on
25 June at 7:30 PM. Tickets and more info


28 June – 1 September 2014
Opening Party: Friday, 27 June, 8 – 11 PM

This exhibition of new and recent work by Portuguese artist Vasco Araújo explores the artist’s ongoing interest in the human condition. Working across media, Araújo draws upon Western traditions in opera, dance, theatre, and literature in order to introduce divergent readings on such cultural histories. In so doing, Araújo wrests and confronts these historical references in order to question both contemporary notions of representation and the writing and canonization of history. He offers instead a body of work that suggests that history, rather than closed or finished narrative, has the ability to be renewed and reread. The exhibition is comprised of six works including the Canadian premiere of Araújo’s newest video Retrato (2014), a special commission by The Power Plant that appropriates portraits by 20th-century painter and writer Eduardo Malta.
This exhibition is curated by Julia Paoli. More info


28 June – 1 September 2014
Opening Party: Friday, 27 June, 8 – 11 PM

Akram Zaatari examines how individual experiences are deeply intertwined with specific cultural and political histories. A founding member of the Arab Image Foundation, Zaatari has worked to collect more than 600,000 photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora. He then recontextualizes these archival documents in order to propose new scripts for how we catalogue both individual experience and communicate specific cultural and political histories. For his exhibition at The Power Plant, Zaatari explores questions of memory, time and radical preservation through his installation Time Capsule Simulation (2013) and his video The End of Time (2013), an allegory of the birth and disappearance of desire, enacted by three men caught in a successive cycle of beginnings and endings. Together, the works highlight human connection to preservation: of life, love and desire.
This exhibition is curated by Valerie Velardo. More info


Associated Events

ARTIST TALK: Pedro Reyes
Wednesday, 25 June, 7:30 PM
Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre
FREE Members, $12 Non-Members
Join us when Pedro Reyes will talk about this iteration of Sanatorium within the context of his larger practice, all in advance of the opening of the exhibition. Tickets and more info

FREE Opening Party
Friday, 27 June, 8 – 11 PM
Be one of the first in the city to see the new exhibitions and meet the artists.
Join us on our lakeside patio under the stars. A cash bar will be available all evening.

SUNDAY SCENE: Vicky Moufawad-Paul
Sunday, 29 June, 2 PM / FREE
Vicky Maufawad-Paul is a Toronto-based curator and the Artistic Director at A Space Gallery. Join us when she leads a tour of the exhibition Akram Zaatari: The End of Time.

More information about all programs and events


ALL YEAR, ALL FREE: BMO Financial Group
Power Players: BMO Financial Group, Manulife Financial, Rogers, and TD Bank
Primary Education Sponsor: CIBC
2014 Power Kids Sponsor: Hal Jackman Foundation
Major Supporters: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Toronto Arts Council

ALL YEAR, ALL FREE presented by BMO Financial Group

Tuesday - Sunday 10 AM – 6 PM
Thursday 10 AM – 8 PM
Open holiday Mondays

Media Contact: Robin Boyko, +1.416.973.4927,

The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West
Toronto, ON Canada M5J 2G8

Image: Pedro Reyes, installation view of Sanatorium as part of The Spirit of Utopia, 2013. Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo: Patrick Lears.

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Book review: Art & Ecology Now

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-06-27 12:16:48

Art & Ecology Now by Andrew Brown.

Available on Amazon USA and UK.


Publisher Thames & Hudson writes: 'Eco' awareness has had an enormous impact, not least in the art world. This accessible and thought-provoking book is the first in-depth exploration of the ways in which contemporary artists are confronting nature, the environment, climate change and ecology.

The book moves through the various levels of artists' engagement, from those who act as independent commentators, documenting and reflecting on nature, to those who use the physical environment as the raw material for their art, and those committed activists who set out to make art that transforms both our attitudes and our habits.

The Canary Project, Glacial, Icecap and Permafrost Melting XXXVI: Bellingshause Base, King George Island, Antarctica, 2008. Source: Sayler / Morris.

Tea Makipaa, Atlantis (Finland)

Don't judge a book by its hideous cover and its rather bland title, Art & Ecology Now is a timely, inspiring and exciting book.

Concerned that we are today about the increased surveillance of our online existence, the financial crisis, legal and illegal immigration or the lack of bright prospects for many young graduates, we might forget to look at what lays directly below our feet and what hangs above our head. 5 or 6 years ago, ecology was a hot topic in major museums and art galleries, sustainability was the magical word and many still believed that we could go back to some Arcadian state. Or at least that the dire consequences of global warming and the over exploitation of natural resources were distant in time and place. Nowadays, we know that the world as we know and despair of right now is probably very different from the one that awaits us.

The artists in this book remind us that everything is interconnected. That immigration, business and politics are affected by change in environmental equilibrium and that any disruption taking place in Mongolia might sooner or later have ecological and thus economical repercussions at the other end of the world.

Art & Ecology Now organizes artworks in 6 chapters that deals with the level and type of personal engagement with nature:

re/view highlights the work of artists (mostly photographers) who document the ecological challenges the world is going through. The author of the book compared their work to the one of war artists and investigative journalists. And indeed what these artists offer us are worrying reports and frightening images that show nature hovering between power and vulnerability.

The re/form section introduces us to artists who use the physical environment as a raw matter from which to make art. Their works take the form of permanent interventions or very light actions that leave only ephemeral traces.

re/search looks at artists who attempt to explore and understand the inner working of the natural world. Either out of personal curiosity or because they want to offer alternative ways to consider important ecological challenges.

The re/use section present artists who are concerned with the Earth's resources and who cast a critical look at how our throwaway culture disrupts the equilibrium of the environment.

Packed with novel ideas, prototype, experiments, beta tests and hypotheses, re/create offers a selection of artworks that emerged out of a quest to propose solutions to environmental problems.

Finally, re/act presents what might be the most ambitious projects in the book. The artists featured in the pages are actively seeking to transform the world in modest but tangible ways.

I've already expressed my dislike of the very underwhelming cover, I'm not sure i see the point in mentioning the year of birth of each artist under their name and i would have liked to see more pioneering works from past decades (even if i realize that this is probably not the point of a book that focuses on contemporary practice) but otherwise Art & Ecology Now is an inspiring and exciting book. I was very impressed with the selection of artworks, many of which i didn't know and almost of which i found truly relevant and stimulating.

Here's a quick tour of some of the works i discovered in the book:

Benoit Aquin, Desertification in China

Benoit Aquin, A dust storm in Hongsibao, Ningxia, China, 2007

Benoît Aquin 's The Chinese Dust Bowl series explores the impact of disastrous agrarian policies that have turned the grasslands of central China into desert. Frequent and violent dust storms affect three hundred million people in China. And beyond since winds carry the barren topsoil to North Korea, South Korea, and Japan and as far as North America.

In China's Qinhai Province there were once 4,077 lakes. In the last 20 years, more than 2,000 have disappeared. In Hebei Province, surrounding Beijing, 969 of the regions 1,052 lakes are now gone. And in Africa, Lake Chad, once a landmark for astronauts in space, is just about gone.

Ravi Agarwal, Tar Machine Series, 2011

Ravi Agarwal, Tar Machine II, 2013

The Tar Machines photo series reflects Ravi Agarwal's fascination with issues of labour and industrial machines. He found these iron tar-boiling machines (i had no idea such devices even existed) in the street and presents them as if they were sculptures, giving them nobility and life.

Haubitz + Zoche, waterknowsnowall, 2009

Haubitz+Zoche painted a blue line running through Copenhagen's city center. The line delineates the city's new waterfront if the inland ice of Greenland were to melt, prompting water levels to rise by seven meters.

Tea Makipaa, Atlantis (Malmö)

Atlantis, a collaboration between Halldor Ulfarsson and Tea Makipa, appears as a wooden cabin sinking in the middle of a lake or river. The work reminds us that our current lifestyle isn't as secure as some of us might like to think.

To passersby, the house will looks as if it is inhabited: there's light inside and the sound of family life can be heard from the street.

Klaus Weber, Allee der Schlaflosigkeit, 2005

Allee der Schlaflosigkeit [Avenue of Wakefulness] was a 1:2.45 scale model for a botanical pavilion accessible to visitors. The structure was a long corridor lined with Angel Trumpet trees, a hallucinogenic plant with ties to shamanistic rites and valued for its ability to induce powerfully vivid dreams. Three beehives were added at the end of the 'avenue'. During the exhibition, bees collected nectar from the trees and produced pure Angel Trumpet honey.

178 Matt Costello Hidden

We usually associate water consumption with the water that we drink, use for washing, use in the toilet or watering plants. On average this amounts to about 150L of water per person per day in the UK. Yet, if we consider the 'virtual' or embodied water used to produce the goods and food we consume, our daily average is much closer to 3,400 litres of water per person per day. This 'hidden' water accounts for nearly 96% of our daily consumption! Hidden explores the virtual water present in manufactured goods and industrial materials. It includes a set of glass vessels designed to communicate the differing amounts of water required to produce a range of industrial materials. The stopper in each bottle is manufactured from a different material: steel, aluminium, epoxy, glass and ceramic. The vessels are sized to contain the amount of water used to produce that bottle's cap.

186 N55 Clean Air Machine, 1997

The Clean Air Machine improves the air quality of indoor environment by cleaning the air of dust, viruses, fungus, bacteria, toxic gases, malodorous gases, organic solvents, smog, carbon monoxide etc.

Simon Starling, Tabernas Desert Run

The Tabernas Desert in Andalucia is the only 'true desert' in Europe. Growing in size each year due to climate change and poor land management, the land is home to both the film studios of the Spaghetti Westerns era and the Plataforma Solar de Almería, a research facility developing the use of solar energy for the desalination of sea water.

On the 9th September 2004, Starling travelled 41 miles across the Tabernas Desert on an electric bicycle. The bicycle was driven by a 900 watt electric motor that was in turn powered by electricity produced in a portable fuel cell fitted into its frame, generating power using only compressed bottled hydrogen and oxygen from the desert air. The only waste product from the moped's desert crossing was pure water of which 600ml was captured in a water bottle mounted below the fuel cell. Starling has used the captured water to produce a 'botanical' painting of an Opuntia cactus. The painting of this most 'ergonomic' of plants refers back to the site of the journey and to film-maker Leone (who introduced cacti into the area as part of the film sets), while also parodying the somewhat clumsy prototype moped. Sealed in a perspex vitrine, the project has become a kind of closed, symbiotic system, referring in part to Hans Haacke's Condensation Cube. The work makes a direct reference to Chris Burden's 1977 Death Valley Run, a desert crossing made in the real wild west on a bike powered with a tiny petrol engine. (via)

Superflex, Experience Climate Change as a Mosquito

Superflex, Experience Climate Change as a Jellyfish

During the UN Global Climate Summit in Copenhagen 2009, SUPERFLEX offered a hypnotic group session in which the participants were hypnotized in order to perceive the climate change as cockroach. Further sessions were then scheduled to take place in other locations, this time with other animals that are either extinct, about to become extinct, are spreading rapidly or carry dangerous diseases.

The Canary Project, Increase Your Albedo!

The Canary Project, founded by Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris in 2006, uses photography and other media to highlight evidence of global climate change and the devastation that has already occurred.

One of their ongoing projects, Increase Your Albedo!, invites people to wear white to help cool the planet. Albedo, or reflection coefficient, is the measurement of the Earth's ability to reflect the radiation of the sun. The more reflective the Earth, the less sun is absorbed and the cooler it stays. Ice and snow are white. When they melt, the earth gets less reflective, warmer. More ice melts, and it gets even warmer. We want you to increase the overall reflectivity of the earth by wearing white. Albedo is the measurement of the earth's reflectivity.

The introduction to the book contained a number of pioneering works from the 1960s and 70s.

Alan Sonfist, Time Landscape, 1965-1978-Present

From 1965 to 1978, Alan Sonfist planted a garden in Manhattan. The artwork consisted of plants that were native to the New York City area in pre-colonial times. Conceived in 1965 the Time Landscape was among the first prominent art works in the Land Art movement and is still an inspiration to create Natural urban landscapes.

Nicolás García Uriburu, Coloration du Grand Canal, Venice, 1968 (3 Km of the Gran Canal waters dyed green)

Nicolás García Uriburu, Utopía del Bicentenario (1810-2010) 200 años de Contaminación, Riachuelo, 2010

In 1968, Nicolás Garcia Uriburu dyed the Grand Canal in Venice bright green to protest its pollution. He was arrested by the police, but was released when he demonstrated that the substance he had used was not toxic. Uriburu then proceeded to tour the world in search of polluted waterways to colour: the East River in New York, the Seine in Paris, the Riachuelo in Buenos Aires. Joseph Beuys joined him in coloring the Rhine. In London, he was fined £25 for "offending the British Empire" when he colored the fountains of Trafalgar Square. The work has as much relevance and strength as ever.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Touch Sanitation (Fresh Kills Landfill), 1977

Touch Sanitation is probably my favourite work in the book.

In 1976, Mierle Laderman Ukeles accepted an unsalaried position as artist-in-residence with the New York City Department of Sanitation to raise public awareness of urban waste management issues.

For the 11 month-long performance Touch Sanitation, Ukeles traveled sections of New York City to meet over 8500 sanitation employees and shake their hands. Ukeles documented the conversations she had with the workers, their private stories, concerns, and public humiliations.

Views inside the book:





Related stories: Radical Nature - Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009.

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Summer Exhibitions

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Published on : 2014-06-27 01:00:00

Mendel Art Gallery
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

On view June 27 to September 14, 2014

Opening Reception for Summer Exhibitions: June 27, 2014 at 8 p.m.



Convoluted Beauty: In the Company of Emily Carr

Performance: Thursday, June 26 at 7 p.m. with Berlin-based artist Thomas Zipp. Zipp has been called by Roberta Black of the New York Times, "a romantic with a utilitarian streak".  Presenting his work in Canada for the first time, Zipp delivers music that is "noisily modern, in an antique sort of way" to open his installation, Figure-Ground Specification in Terms of Structural Information. The Rivalry between Different Pattern Codings is in conjunction with the exhibition Convoluted Beauty: In the Company of Emily Carr.


The work of Emily Carr (1871-1945) is nationally respected for its pioneering of modernity in Western Canada. In her early career, Carr travelled to the United Kingdom to study art, determined to expand her creative vision. Instead, her time there (1899 to 1904), proved to be among the more challenging ordeals of her life, culminating in an 18-month hospitalization with the diagnosis of “hysteria.” Surprisingly, it became a formative point in her career, one where she resolutely declared her sense of her own Canadian as well as artistic identity.

This project, curated by Lisa Baldissera, Chief Curator, Mendel Art Gallery, is the first significant presentation of Emily Carr’s work in Saskatchewan in almost 20 years. It considers Carr’s London years to explore notions of the artistic imaginary and artistic identity. It touches on a variety of critical frameworks: the theme of exile, readings of affect and interspecies theory; an examination of hysteria and the clinic which moves beyond the psychoanalytic frameworks of the 1990s, and the concept of “unproductivity” in creative work. Convoluted Beauty examines Carr’s legacy through work by major international artists, including: Thomas Zipp (Germany), Louise Lawler (USA), Mark Wallinger (UK), and commissioned projects by Canadian artists Nathan and Cedric Bomford, Karen Tam, Marianne Nicolson and Joanne Bristol. The exhibition also includes work from across Carr’s career, generously loaned from the collections of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The Mendel is grateful to Tourism Saskatoon, B’nai Brith Lodge 739 and Congregation Agudas Israel, Saskatoon, for sponsoring this exhibition.

Image: Video still from the performance by Thomas Zipp: Figure-Ground Specification in Terms of Structural Information. The Rivalry between Different Pattern Codings, 2013. Courtesy Thomas Zipp, Patricia Low Contemporary and Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin Photo: Ryan Larraman


A Vital Force: The Canadian Group of Painters

"The significance of the first exhibition… is that it sums up the growth and development of the liberal spirit and demonstrates what a vital force it is."
— Robert Ayre, The Canadian Forum, 1933

This is the first major exhibition to focus on the Canadian Group of Painters, its look and its legacy. Some 40 works, circa 1933-1953, are displayed, by artists including Caven Atkins, A.Y. Jackson, and L.L. Fitzgerald. A Vital Force is organized and circulated by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario.



Sympathetic Magic

Canada has cultivated and maintained a strong symbolic connection with the northern landscape. The artistic production of Canada’s renowned early painters, the Group of Seven and their ilk, has both defined artistic practice at home and Canada abroad. As art historian John O’Brian observes in Wild Art History, “The land and its representations are knotted together, not unlike two other words with an affinity to landscape in contemporary thought — nation and nationalism.” The country as depicted by the progenitors of the Canadian landscape tradition is a pristine, untamed, and unpeopled place. A history of colonization and the development of the modern Canadian state are registered on countless paintings and postcards. Popular depictions of the landscape are telling: Canada is rich in natural beauty, abundant in resources, and open for business. Despite seismic environmental and social changes, the Canadian wilderness trope persists. Sympathetic Magic, curated by Troy Gronsdahl, is an exhibition of contemporary Canadian art that pulls at the loose threads of the fabric of the national myth.

Bringing together text and photo-based works by Raymond Boisjoly, Adad Hannah, Ken Lum, and Kevin Schmidt, the exhibition explores the complex relationships between nationhood, culture, and the environment through the real and imaginative terrain of “the north.” The exhibition title is derived from a term used by anthropologist James George Frazer in his seminal treatise on magic and religion, first published in 1890. The Golden Bough had a profound influence on then-emerging fields of anthropology and sociology, and enduring influences on psychology and literature. Under the umbrella of Sympathetic Magic, Frazer identified two foundational principles: the Law of Similarity and the Law of Contact or Contagion. The latter stipulates that, “Things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed.” He makes another compelling statement: “Things can physically affect each other through a space which appears to be empty.” There is a poetic resonance in his text that lends itself to this particular exploration of nationhood, culture and identity in Canada.

Image: Adad Hannah, Cyclist Stopped on a Path (The Russians series), detail, 2011, HD video, 5 min. 09 s.. Courtesy of Pierre-François Oullette art contemporain, Montreal, and Equinox Gallery, Vancouver.


Mendel Art Gallery
950 Spadina Crescent East, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
1 (306) 975-7610

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Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay: Despite His Good Mood

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Published on : 2014-06-27 01:00:00


Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay
Despite His Good Mood
Paint on glass, 2014
June 27 to August 24

Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay is an artist and diarist. His work in video, sound, and text contemplates the history of song, the rendering of love and emotion into language, and the resurrection and manipulation of voices from history - sung, spoken or screamed. Nemerofsky’s work has been exhibited internationally, appearing in numerous private collections as well as the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

convenience is a window gallery that provides an opening for art that engages, experiments, and takes risks with the architectural, urban, and civic realm.

24/7 window gallery
58 Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto ON  M6K 2V9
(at Seaforth Avenue, one block North of Queen)

Contact: Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay

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Keith Langergraber | The Missing Body: performance in the absence of the artist

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Published on : 2014-06-27 01:00:00

SAAG Summer Exhibitions

June 27 to September 7, 2014
Opening Reception: June 27 at 5 PM
Reception sponsored by Davidson & Williams LLP
601 3 Ave S, Lethbridge, AB

Theatre of the Exploding Sun
Keith Langergraber

Fan fiction has proven itself a growing phenomenon in recent years. It pertains to stories written by enthusiasts who adopt the characters and settings created by an original author, typically without authorization. Keith Langergraber's current practice playfully riffs on the oeuvre through his sculptures, photographs, drawings and a recently completed trilogy of films, which chronicles the remarkable journey of Eton Corrasable (played by the artist) and his efforts to save the world after inadvertently causing a rupture in the space/time continuum. The works are amusing, faux-naif fan films that allow the artist to insert himself in a number of histories and traditions including appropriation and conceptual art, parody, and homage. It is there the artist makes his art, acting out tales of epic adventures in a universe where Robert Smithson and Battlestar Gallactica collide.

Travelling to the Yukon, Cayman Islands, Mono Lake, Pavilion Lake, Miami Islet and more, Langergraber's interest in landscape, land art, travelogues and road trips is apparent. The allure, rigor and satisfaction of pilgrimages to film locations from Star Trek to X-Files is here expanded to include infamous sites such as Spiral Jetty, an artwork deliberately isolated and slowly degrading, now threatened by oil development on the one hand and tourism on the other. Langergraber coyly teases out these issues and more, prompting questions about the lifespan of art and ideas, about entropy and time, and faced with a certain sense of futility, casts the artist as our hero.

Keith Langergraber is a mid-career artist living and working in Vancouver. He received his BFA from the University of Victoria and his MFA from the University of British Columbia. He has exhibited extensively in solo and group shows in galleries in Canada, the United States, and Asia since 1995. He has received many grants and awards for his work including having been nominated for the Sobey Award in 2009. He teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Keith Langergraber Theatre of the Exploding Sun is organized and circulated by the Kelowna Art Gallery in partnership with the Southern Alberta Art Gallery. Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the City of Lethbridge, and the City of Kelowna.

Keith Langergraber, Production still at Mono Lake site, California, 2012. Photo Courtesy of the artist.

Keith Langergraber, Production still from Glass Island film sequence in The Glass Island

The Missing Body: performance in the absence of the artist
Vito Acconci, Blair Brennan, David Cross, Mandy Espezel and Mami Takahashi
Curated by Cindy Baker

In the summer of 2014, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery will co-produce a major curatorial project focused on expanding discourse around the nature of performance. The Missing Body: performance in the absence of the artist, curated by Lethbridge-based Cindy Baker, will explore the concept of performance via art in which the artist's body is obscured, hidden, or simply not present in the final manifestation of the work. Through interactive projects (both in the gallery and outdoors/offsite), art that encourages the viewer to become the performer, and art that invites audiences to interact directly with the artist, The Missing Body offers hands-on opportunities for audiences of all ages to engage with performance art.

The Missing Body explores four specific approaches to performance where the artist's body is absent:

  1. Artists that hire other people to enact the performance.
  2. Work that is activated, created or completed by the audience.
  3. Object-based artworks, which are stand-ins for the artists' own bodies.
  4. Artists whose bodies are hidden within the work.

Removing the artist's body from performance creates opportunities for others to step inside the work physically, conceptually or symbolically. Denying the artist's centrality as the locus of the performance rejects the rarified position of the artist — hiding one body in order to substitute and privilege others' bodies, knowledge and expertise.

SAAG will host five artists, from New Zealand, United States, Japan, and Canada including Vito Acconci, Blair Brennan, David Cross, Mandy Espezel and Mami Takahashi.

The Missing Body: performance in the absence of the artist is supported by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG), the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge, Casa, Trapdoor Artist Run Centre, Mountain Standard Time, the Potemkin Collective, the University of Lethbridge/the Penny Building Gallery, DC3 Projects (Edmonton), and other community partners. Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the City of Lethbridge and the Heart of our City.

David Cross, Bounce (detail), 2005. Performance/installation, duration variable, vinyl, air blower, 7 x 5.5 x 1.9 m. Photo courtesy of the artist.

For more information contact our Visitor Services Coordinator at 403-327-8770 x 21

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