Curatorial Projects > EcoArchive: Mediations on Time and Nature (2010-11)

EcoArchive: Meditations on Time and Nature

A group exhibition featuring work by Tamara Albaitis, Mark Baugh-Sasaki, Karl Cronin, Sam Easterson, Cynthia Hooper, Chris McCaw, Matthew Moore, Chris Sicat, and Jessica Skloven

November 3, 2010 – January 22, 2011
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

Co-curated with Patricia Watts, founder and West Coast Curator of ecoartspace, a non-profit organization committed to developing creative and innovative strategies to address our global environmental issues.

Documenting nature has been an ongoing activity in the visual arts especially since the advent of photography in the 1800s. However, with our growing consciousness in the new millennia of the large-scale irreversible acts humans are imposing on the landscape, the artistic drive to memorialize nature has become almost dutiful. As our ecological baselines shift, we now, unfortunately, mostly view nature in its various states of decline and managed beauty. Previously, humans collected flora and fauna to learn and understand the natural world around them. Now, some artists are cataloguing nature and human interventions as if they are preparing artifacts for a post-apocalyptic civilization. The undeniable effects of climate change and increasing urbanization all over the earth have been strong impetus for much of this work.

EcoArchive: Meditations on Time and Nature is a group exhibition that articulates contemplative environmental perspectives and time-based narratives in photography, sculpture, and video. In our rapidly advancing world of technology where perception of time and space is distorted by the immediacy of text messaging and the instant streaming of content on the internet, these artists respond to the use and consumption of natural resources by "naming the parts" in ways that slow us down. Their work challenges us to step outside of our daily experience, to consider on a deeper level the range of human activities that shape the natural world, and how time collapses as we move into the future. Some of the artworks are intentional archives documenting the environment and landscape; other artworks are poetic manifestations of nature, providing another lens with which to consider our recognition and awareness of ecological processes.

About the participating artists’ work in EcoArchive: Meditations on Time and Nature:

Tamara Albaitis received the first American MFA in sound art in 2005 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She creates sculptures with audio material (speakers, wires, amplifiers) not just for their sonic capabilities, but also for their sculptural properties. Emanating deep rhythmic bass tones, moving around the speakers at different speeds during different times, Albaitis' work references the global electromagnetic resonance phenomenon known as Schumann resonances, the natural frequency of Earth that is similar in wavelength to the alpha rhythms of mammalian brainwaves. She posits a holistic understanding of our relationship to nature on the biological and physical level.  

Mark Baugh-Sasaki’s sculptures are created out of a rugged combination of industrial and natural materials and processes that comment upon how the natural landscape is continually being transformed through its relationship with the industrial, creating new hybridized landscapes over time. He also highlights scientific theories of energy and entropy, where potential energy stored inside natural materials takes on another form and shape when reconstructed into his sculptures, illustrating a complex relationship between the natural world and manufactured matter.  

Karl Cronin is an experimental performance artist who recently initiated a project entitled Somatic Natural History Archive (SNHA), estimated to take 50 years to complete. From his field research he sets out to document with his own body representational expressions of 10,000 U.S. plants and animals. The number 10,000 was chosen because it is large enough to reveal the breadth of our planet’s biodiversity and has been used to refer to the “phenomenal world” (all that is), particularly by early Zen Buddhists. SNHA is being built in the regions surrounding 3 research hubs: San Francisco, Santa Fe, and New York City, and explores how embodied experience can be used to imagine, document, describe, and communicate environments and the movements and rhythms of animals and plants that constitute the natural world.  

Sam Easterson’s ongoing project The Museum of Animal Perspectives (MAP) features wildlife imagery that has been captured using remote sensing cameras on animals, spiders, and insects. Through the presentation and interpretation of this video imagery, The MAP endeavors to expand the public's capacity to empathize with animals and plants. The MAP is a non-commercial new media project created primarily for educational purposes.

Cynthia Hooper’s video works are informed by her fascination of the conceptual complexities and unexpected formal beauty generated by overlooked and environmentally problematic landscapes, such as Ohio's Cuyahoga River (on which the infamous 1969 fire sparked the U.S. environmental movement), California and Oregon's Klamath River, and the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers (two heavily litigated and politically contentious rivers that serve the city of Tijuana, Mexico). Her videos document industrialized and idiosyncratic sites and provide stunning visual contrast between the balance, symmetry and stasis of human-made infrastructure and the chaos of natural forms and movement.  

Chris McCaw investigates the primal side of photography by using its most basic components - a lens, time, and light. While attempting to photograph the night sky several years ago, McCaw fell asleep and woke up too late to end the exposure, discovering that the rising sun produced a violent change in his negative. He learned to control this change to create unique, first-generation images that engage the sun itself as a collaborative partner in the photographic process, a series entited Sunburn. He creates hand-built cameras of varying sizes, designed to accommodate vintage gelatin silver B&W paper in place of film, with special military-reconnaissance optics. The intense light naturally solarizes the paper, wherein negative becomes positive through extreme over-exposure.  What remains is evidence of the passage of time, rendered with a destructive mark as the exposure process scorches, scars, and stains the paper.

Matthew Moore is the last of four generations to farm his family’s land outside of Phoenix, AZ. As a farmer and an artist, he displays the realities of this transition in order to document his displacement from the land on which he was raised. For his new series entitled Lifecycles, Moore creates time-lapse video documentations of different foods grown on his family farm (kale, squash, broccoli, etc.) to archive the most important daily process of agriculture, the growth of produce. The short films show a single production cycle of each plant. The project is a part of a larger effort to create an international database, gathering footage of plants grown across the globe through time-lapse photography.

Chris Sicat works on found and reclaimed wood of varied sizes and shapes, painstakingly covering the surfaces with individual strokes of a graphite pencil. In utilizing a form from nature and drawing on it with another natural material, Sicat maintains his faithful commitment to working within nature.  He transforms the warm tones of redwood and oak into cool, reflective, silvery graphite surfaces, in a way hastening the process of carbonization through the repetitive, time consuming motions of his hand.

Jessica Skloven’s series of photographs, Chronicles of a Place Unknown, was borne out of a trip to Iceland in Summer 2008, where the sun never really dips below the horizon, illuminating the harsh and barren, yet completely active, landscape 24 hours a day. Her photographs highlight the active geology of Iceland, a case study in natural elements. Many of the country’s rivers and streams are filled with glacier melt, the direct result of fiery volcanic activity under massive sheets of ice.  Her work is a testament to documenting landscape that has been crafted over centuries.