Day 1: Spiders, Readymades, and a Beautiful Retreat in the Woods
Today I started day 1 of the Biophilia Residency organized by the Ayatana Artist Research Program with a visit to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa prior to meeting the group of artists with whom I will spend the next week exploring. I take it as a good sign that a version of Louise Bourgeois’ “Maman” was the first piece of the collection to greet me at the entrance (after all we are here to study nature and wildlife ... and giant spiders, cast in bronze or not, count as well).
I was positively surprised to encounter a considerably large collection of Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades, including the 5th version of the infamous “Fountain” from 1917, re-made in 1964, and some other gems like “In Advance of the Broken Arm” (1915, 4th Version, 1964) and “Trap” (1917, 2nd version, 1964). As we all know, Duchamp radically changed assumptions about the nature of art when he repurposed industrially created objects and declared them works of art. He is a favorite and still a major influence for my own research. Needless to say it made me very happy that I had the chance to experience a good number of this important work.
Another wonderful work that caught my attention was Myfanwy Macleod’s “Albert Walker” from 2014. Apparently a strain of cannabis of uncertain origins, the name of this installation is inspired by this particular variety named after a notorious Canadian conman and convicted killer, who was well known for changing his identity many times to evict prosecution by law. Here, enlarged replicas of the plant’s flower buds are displayed as psychedelic, color-shifting clusters covered in chameleon paint, stored inside a reproduction of a traditional cabinet for souvenirs. As minimal as Macleod’s installation presents itself at first glance, it is notable that the enlarged flower buds of the plant are 3D printed objects.
After a first informal meeting and introduction to the program activities at the Gallery’s cafeteria, our group made its way over to Gatineau Park’s Visitor Center to take a look at the (taxidermy versions) of wildlife we might encounter during our planned trips. The afternoon was filled with very informative talks by all participating artists’ presenting their work, background, and research interests. Tomorrow we will start with the first field trips, including a highly anticipated visit to the bird and large skeleton specimen at the National Museum of Nature’s Research Collection, as well as trip to forage for edible and medicinal wildflowers at the Wild Garden. Photos to follow - stay tuned!