Allora & Calzadilla, Francis Alÿs, Cory Arcangel, John Bock, Olaf Breuning, Marcus Coates, Robyn Cumming, Mark Dion, FASTWÜRMS, Shaun Gladwell, Lucy Gunning, Nina Katchadourian, Louise Lawler, Hanna Liden, Hew Locke, Sandra Meigs, Rivane Neuenschwander and Cao Guimarães, Jeff Sonhouse, Javier Téllez , Michelle Williams Gamaker
Curator: Helena Reckitt, Senior Curator of Programs
Civilization notwithstanding, we live with and among nature and animals. Cultural followers such as pigeons, rats, foxes, and – in Canada – bears, live off our refuse, while bacteria reside in our guts. The industrial world eats further into natural habitats, but micro-environments flourish in urban and exurban sites. Responding to the contemporary desire to go “back to nature,” The Power Plant’s summer group exhibition ‘Adaptation: Between Species’ explores interspecies encounters. What happens when humans, animals and the natural world meet? What forms of communication, miscommunication, intimacy, and exchange ensue?
While species live in ever closer proximity, many people feel profoundly cut off both from natural environments and from their own animal natures. Our deep longing to connect with non-human life forms is reflected in contemporary phenomena ranging from the boom in pet ownership and the widespread anthropomorphism in popular culture to the upsurge in vacations that promise to transport us to unspoiled lands.
However, despite this deep-seated sense of alienation from nature, the species are in fact closely related. For instance, as Donna Haraway notes in her book When Species Meet, 90 percent of human cells are filled with the genomes of bacteria, fungi, protists, and such, with only 10 percent comprising human genomes. ‘Adaptation’ explores this commonality between the species and considers the various forms of intelligence and knowledge they share. It also asks what our interactions with other species reveal about our human as well as our animal natures. Highlighting the urge to observe, touch, live with, and mimic other species, the exhibition delves into the intimate and, at times, uncanny fusions that result. Many of the artworks hover between seriousness and absurdity, embracing the potential for fantasy, childish antics and regression at the core of human/non-human relations, and reveling in the transgression of both social acceptability and human identity that interspecies encounters can engender.
Coinciding with the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, the exhibition considers how adaptation functions as a form of biological and cultural survival. It also takes a realistic view of human/non-human dynamics, acknowledging the unbalanced and exploitative power relations that too often characterize our society’s attitudes toward other life forms.
What do we learn by sharing our lives and this planet with other species? Impersonating and identifying with the natural world and the animal kingdom might contain the seeds for radical change, as we affirm our links with other species, recognize our animal natures and experience the liberation of feeling wild at heart.
A publication together with an extensive program of public events accompanies the exhibition. Highlights include a DJ Set and SKRY-POD public tarot reading by Ontario artists FASTWÜRMS, a film screening ‘Animal Drag Kingdom’ with works by Guy Ben-Ner, Douglas Gordon, Kathy High, Kristin Lucas, and Steve Reinke and Jessie Mott, a children’s workshop on animal language, and free gallery tours every weekend at 2pm.
SUPPORT DONOR: The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation
The Power Plant offers free gallery admission all summer thanks to the support of the Hal Jackman Foundation and Media Partner NOW Magazine.