The Anthropocene, our current epoch of patent human agency, is an expanse of time when geologies, wrought by centuries of exploitation, have unleashed accelerated chaos onto societies and ecologies. While our own pandemic lives might seem to have slowed down, earthly rhythms have maintained their unchecked pace. Such is the disjointed context and shared period in which our four artists have dedicated themselves to long-term projects. Patience-testing periods like these make fertile months for scientific inquiry and for deep dives into subject matter like research ethics and environmental responsibility – durational activities incompatible with the hectic tempo of crisis. These deep times can allow for a more genuine engagement with the moral demands made by one’s subject.
Maryse Goudreau has spent a decade creating a “social history” of the beluga whale, that marine mammal so enigmatic that it seems almost mystical to many of us. Her creaturely subject has drawn the artist ever deeper into areas that defy expectations and predictions.
Kelly Jazvac combed the shores of the Pacific Ocean with geologist Patricia Corcoran and oceanographer Charles Moore, looking for what the trio calls plastiglomerates, i.e. a newly-recognized form of conglomerate “rock” that contains both naturally-occurring sand and plastics from marine debris. Jazvac’s collection wittily blurs the taxonomic and aesthetic categories that these geo-cultural specimens themselves defy.
Jessica Slipp’s latest work is the fifteenth such performance in which she metamorphoses into (a) rock. Applying her methodology in-situ, whether in industrial areas, farmland, or natural landscapes, she further eschews traditional distinctions, elemental or otherwise, that uphold categories of what can be found on earth.
Clara Lacasse photographed the uncannily empty interiors of a mid-renovation Montréal Biodôme while its typical inhabitants were relocated to other conservation institutions. Her series documents the progressive installation of various systems that undergird this “Space for Life” and make it an arena for scientific observation which, when shown empty, reflects on how we collectively see its intended contents.
This exhibition hopes to respond to the temporal, ecological, and ethical demands of these deep times. Compare the time these four artists spent working on their respective projects to that of viewing the videos on display, or the time looking at plinthed samples or framed photographs. As curator, I wonder if its numerically-determined time could become more pliant, then, given the self-reflection demanded by our furious earthly epoch, this Anthropocene. We must each decide to belong to the Earth as a collective and political commitment to it as a common good. These deep times are wracked by impatience, impermanence, and impossibly painful realizations as yet unarrived at by humanity.