The Georgia Straight
Unearthing: art by Valérie Chartrand, Robert Morris, Ben Oswald, Suzanne Paleczny, Jennie Vallis, Carollyne Yardley
Steve Newton on December 11th, 2020 at 5:23 PM
Due to Covid-19, many patterns have changed in our lives, including an increased number of humans planting urban gardens. Additionally, the lockdowns in city centres—and the attendant quiet on normally busy streets—have created an unprecedented chance for urban animals to roam. Pandemic Sculpture Garden (2020) is an exhibition of sculptures that examines the permeable boundaries between human and nonhuman systems. As cities continue to spread out into the natural landscape, and development and density shrink ecosystems and habitats, urban animals must continually relearn how to co-exist with their human neighbours. Employed by psychoanalysis as well as biology, the term symbiosis describes a system in which members of (different) species live in physical contact. In evolution, symbiogenesis relates to the cooperation between species in order to increase their survival. Feminist philosopher of science Donna Haraway continued this idea using the word ‘sympoiesis’ to describe how our lives and the lives of other species intersect. This project used connected and porous materials found in my urban garden to examine infectious disease, interspecies relations, cohabitation, and symbiogenesis (including the appearance of new bodies, organs and species). This unconventional sculpture garden is a speculative tale of animal-human sympoiesis which invites diverse publics (human and nonhuman alike) to experience a utopian/dystopian future of survivors and remnants who emerge from damaged worlds.