Monday, 26 June 2017

A natural selection - Residency by Rodrigo Arteaga - #2

Brownfield sites and Studio work

There are many Brownfield sites in the city of Stoke-on-Trent which are very interesting places because they have so much human and non-human interaction. The majority of them have been completely fenced so it´s difficult for people (but possible) to access them.  Therefore they have been bursting with all sorts of species of plants and small animals. We can see the slow but powerful force of plants to outgrow concrete. There is all sorts of debris of human culture which I have been working with. I have payed a few visits to a Brownfield site which is close to AirSpace Gallery and that was the former Hanley Stadium. 








From this former Hanley Stadium Brownfield site I collected fragments of broken glass from the site and have been using the fragments apparently as an accidental shattered glass on the vitrine floor but from a closer look you can tell that it actually conforms a very carefully constructed image of the same site. It has to do with a certain notion of order and chance, when it´s repeated it becomes order. The fragments of broken glass also suggest a map, then the fragments could potentially become sites. 

                                      


From another site that had houses that were demolished in order to be built new ones and offer new local employment positions, this never happened and all that remains is the land with the site walls. I brought some material from this site to the gallery. I brought a dead large plant that was almost intact and placed it in the gallery as if it were sprouting from the crack between the floor and the wall and placed a selection of paper cut-out insects from a book of species found all over Europe, I selected the few that were closer towards camouflage so that you would possibly perceive them as real in a first look but then noticing that is actually just cut and folded paper.  





The other work consisted in a diorama of a dead tree with soil and plants brought from the site on a wheelbarrow and that was carried through the city. I am interested in the impulse of trying to bring something back from the place to the studio and of course this is a very literal way of doing this but that also enhances the mobility or perhaps the arbitrary aspect of the selected fragment of nature that is to be represented. It changes the device for containing a representation of nature into a domestic work tool such as the wheelbarrow. It is also a very stubborn attempt to bring an element of the environment to the gallery space as a way of representing it that shows actually how the impulse in doing so becomes inevitably part of the equation. 






I found that the video I made of paper insects placed on spiderwebs looked interesting placed on a corner almost as an actual spiderweb would be and have been trying out a projection of a video work called "Birdwatching". This work consists in the placement of taxidermied birds (canaries and budgies) on tree branches in different locations in London such as Regent´s Park, Hampstead Heath and Priory Park. The videos just shows the slow movement of the tree with the wind along with the ambient sound of the park. It comes from the questioning of the natural history tradition of taxidermy being made to look alive. It is an attempt to do the exact opposite, to mortalize rather than immortalize. The action is rather simple but reveals a complex system, being a frustrated return onto nature. If we look at one of many examples: John James Audobon was a painter and hunter. First he hunted down animals to be able to paint and in his words “immortalizing them through painting”. This is an interesting and contradictory relation towards nature, life and death, taken as a counterpoint to the present action. Canaries were normally used to test carbon monoxide under coalmines and are almost extinct in the wild. Another reference is the two attempts of architect Frank Stainbridge to show exotic plants in England were it was later to be discovered that the two greenhouses he built were in fact showing a nature/culture hybrid that only he knew about. 
It hopefully gets close to questioning some ideas about the apparent liveliness of taxidermy responding to the natural history tradition of the diorama. But you´re not exactly sure if the bird is going to move or not which is the ambiguity I was looking for. It also incorporates the sound of the outside space into the gallery space which I find very interesting. 




 

  

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