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reasonable & senseless: a technical disaster

Surrey Art Gallery
Surrey, BC thru Jul 10, 2005

Donna Szoke - reasonable & senseless
Donna Szoke, reasonable & senseless (2005), video still of the Hindenburg 1937 [Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey BC, through Jul 10]

The media communicates new catastrophes of technical miscalculations, pharmacological folly or ecological mayhem on a daily basis. But are they really accidental and unavoidable? Three Canadian artists confront the seductive terror of international disasters in reasonable & senseless: a technical disaster.

Rather than accept geopolitical despair, Michael Alstad, Donna Szoke and K.D. Thornton offer what they call a fool’s hope. They examine the reasons why catastrophes happen and trace the processes by which we learn about them. Until we acknowledge that disasters are potentially controllable, they warn, we will continue to perceive them as “magical events”.

Complicity in global warming is explored in Michael Alstad’s interactive video installation MELT. Melting of the polar ice cap, the result of excess greenhouse gas emissions, already disrupts ocean currents governing climate around the world. To make his point, Alstad merges images of viewers with a projection of the melting Ward Hunt Ice Shelf. K.D. Thornton’s work uses humour and subversive strategies to address social issues. Her installation, Dairy, shows milk jugs being treated by ultraviolet light to make them safe for consumption today – but possibly a misguided “tragedy” of tomorrow. In Fear she uses a software program that searches for the frequency of technical disaster reports on the web. Viewed on 20 miniature LCD monitors, Donna Szoke’s video installation presents a history of technical disasters together with such methodologies as “duck and cover” – a naive defense technique taught to children in anticipation of a nuclear war.


Mia Johnson

 Tue, May 31, 2005