Saturday, September 6, 2008

TNG +15 exhibition, August-September, 2008

Having grown up in Vancouver, I never ceased to be amazed by tourists attempting to hand feed skunks at English Bay. Since coming to Southern Alberta, I have similarly witnessed people leaping out of their minivans to snap pictures of a bear with cubs at Waterton National Park. The Disney-ification of wildlife has created storylines in which dreadful, enduring odours and gruesome maulings are replaced with anthropomorphism. Animals exist for entertainment purposes, even outside animated films and zoos. They are wandering around beaches and beside roadways in order to enhance our vacation experiences. I do not think it is any coincidence that I began working on Plastic Animals in Fake Nature during a residency at the Banff Centre in 2005.

It is very important to me that my work is both playful and accessible while addressing the theoretical discourses and social issues attached to it. With Plastic Animals in Fake Nature, I examine the popular desire to represent wild animals as cute, pint-sized, and harmless. In the closed theatre of the digital print and the mini-diorama, the problem of scale disappears and the tiny toy replica, situated in the imaginary landscape, gives birth to its own storyline. This process of miniaturization is typical in collections -- if we cannot possess an actual object, we possess the copy and use it to create our own closed narratives. As Susan Stewart explains, “[The toy] is a device for fantasy, a point of beginning for narrative. The toy opens an interior world, lending itself to fantasy and privacy …” (2001). Like all narratives, however, it is ideologically laden. By transforming a much larger, more problematic (dangerous and/or endangered) original into a toy, we replace our social responsibilities to the original with the amusing diversion of the miniature.

Art galleries and museums are the products of underlying principles of order, taxonomy, decontextualization (or recontextualization). They highlight objects as art with an educational or critical emphasis. Plastic Animals in Fake Nature satirize traditional museological strategies and scientific methods of presenting classification systems as factual representations of reality rather than as ideologically informed contrivances.

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