Bioparanoia set in for me as soon as I opened the glass doors of Plug In ICA and entered the warm, humid galleries of Toxicity. Co-curated by Dr. Melentie Pandilovski and Dr. Jennifer Willet, this survey of twelve Canadian and international bio-artists successfully links a variety of work through the common thread of an aesthetic interpretation of scientific exploration specific to toxicity. However, without a scientific background, it is a challenge to connect immediately to the work. The technical side was foreign to me, but I found the visual aspects engaging. The appeal was most certainly intensified by my anxiety, and Reva Stone's robotic form Microforge brought it to a peak as I became increasingly irrational about what would happen when I placed my face in contact with her microscope.
Elaine Whittaker, I Caught it at the Movies, 2013, detail
Along the same lines, Elaine Whittaker's I Caught it at the Movies consists of wry commentary on society's obsession with germs. Countless petri dishes with varying dimensions are pinned to the gallery wall to create a stunning visual display. Upon closer inspection these round discs contain stills from bio-nightmarish films smeared with live bacteria in many forms. Other stand out works are Ted Hiebert's experiments with magnetic forces and their effect on the brain in his series Between Magnets, Alana Bartol's short film from the series Forms of Awareness: Ghillie Suit, and co-curator Willet's An INCUBATOR in Sheep's Clothing, in which a functional incubator is housed inside a sculpted sheep.
Toxicity is an exhibition demanding full attention. While an investigation into the cross section of science and art is not a novel idea (for instance, the fourth dimension was a big influence on Duchamp and the Futurists), the burgeoning biotech arts community and the constant barrage of environmental catastrophes makes this contagious collection a new (and important) examination of the science/art paradigm.
Plug In ICA: http://www.plugin.org/
Toxicity continues until February 8.
Lisa Kehler is a writer and curator from Winnipeg. She most recently co-authored the forthcoming publication Art Tomorrow: 40 Years of the Future Now (Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art 1972 - 2012). She holds a Masters in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices from the University of Winnipeg and is currently the Special Projects Director at Border Crossings. She is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @LisaKehler on Twitter.
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