The exhibition NatureCultures explores the interwoven fabric of both the human and nonhuman in the 21st century. The exhibition title refers to a term coined by the American scholar Donna Haraway, which seeks to overcome the unproductive dichotomy of nature and culture. The side effects of human technology intrude into every environment, altering the balance, and even the make up of what we once called nature. While ecological disaster repeatedly threatens, there is a surprising resiliency in the myriad of life forms on this planet. The exhibition presents three artists who explore a realm between science and artistic research as well as between natural and cultural forms of inquiry.
As both an artist and biologist, Brandon Ballengée equally explores the fields of nature, science, and ecology. His work into the decline of (and gradual extinction of many) amphibians combines field research, citizen science and the ability to combine scientific tools with aesthetic production. He utilizes the historic chemical process of ›clearing and staining‹ specimens where hard tissues are stained vibrant colours and muscles made transparent, adapting it to frogs, salamanders and more recently a large variety of aquatic animals. He uses this method, in part, to create highly aesthetic art portraits of these deformed animals, while from the scientific standpoint the process helps him to better understating the origin of these deformities. His recent research into the continued impact to the Gulf of Mexico biodiversity from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, has also led to the creation of new artworks, such as Ghosts of the Gulf, featuring a unique combination of scientific and artistic process.
Local, site-specific issues relevant to Mexico, are the basis of Katya Gardea Browne’s highly aesthetic works of photography and video. In order to bridge the familiar dichotomy of nature and culture, she concentrates on pre-colonial (agri-)cultural practices, which set Haraway’s term ›naturecultures‹ into a more distant past. By contrasting this to current day ecological crises, her work suggests the answer to contemporary problems may reside in an appreciation of ancient Meso-American agrarian technologies. Her series Xochimilco (photography and video) presents not only a fascinating form of artistic research on the waterways of the Mexican capital, but also shows the unmistakable cinematic gaze of the artist’s aesthetics. In her artistic practice Pinar Yoldas explores the connection between technology and nature. An interdisciplinary artist and researcher, her specialisations include art, architecture, interface design, computer science and neuroscience. In her research and work Yoldas’ translates processes of biological systems and ecological disasters. Her comprehension of our presence in a post-human ecosystem has let her to develop speculative organisms. Her recent work Regnum Alba examines an interesting theme: the preference of many laboratory scientists for artificially bred albino organisms. This form of ›culturing‹ organisms, in favour of a symbolic form of purity, reveals a seemingly perverse ideological side to scientific research. While researching on the technologisation of nature, Pinar Yoldas often moves into the field of speculative designs, such as in her series of Designer Babies, which the artist describes as »a quick look into the future of transhumanism«. (Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz)