Wax, Flax, and Feathers
"I warn you to travel in the middle course, Icarus, if too low
the waves may weigh down your wings, if you fly too high the fires will scorch your wings. Stay between both.” Ovid, Metamorphoses
The exhibition Wax, Flax and Feathers brings together the Danish artists Sif Itona Westerberg, Morten Stræde and David Stjernholm. The works bring forth different aspects of our human interference with nature’s rhythms and systems, and how our modern industrial and technological ventures have affected our mental horizons and the way we relate to the world around us. The artists each look at how humanity, through the technologies it has developed, continually reaches beyond itself and shapes new relationships, which can promise improvements to nature, yet also threaten to destroy the very basis of our existence.
The benefits of modern industrial inventions and technological advancement have been manifested in our improved living standards, mobility and a growing global wealth. Recent generations, such the ‘no future generation’, under the influence of the nuclear arms race and the economic depression of the 80s, may have had a tendency to view technological development negatively. The current generation, however, whilst growing increasingly aware of the challenges that face humanity, see technology both as one of the sources of our predicament, and a source of solutions to those same problems. There is rising concern as the challenges of the changing climate and the peaks and troughs of the economic cycle resurface. The balance between hope and dystopia seems to characterize our current thinking as weather and environmental phenomena become more tangibly apparent, but at the same time the sheer scale of the problem muddies the overall perspective, as does the challenge of trying to see through the various political interests.
Sif Itona Westerberg uses, in the piece Un-earth, a mode of vision which has emerged in the last few decades, namely the satellite photograph as ‘the big picture’, to quite literally change our perspective on an open cast mine: that which scars the landscape at eye level, and which we know plunders the earth, becomes a pattern that might remind us of a fossilized creature, buried for millennia under the sea bed. Accompanying this is a sculptural piece, Post-mine encrustation, which shows the product of oxidization as newly exposed minerals react with the air in abandoned mine areas; a natural phenomenon occurring as a result of human intervention. In her plaster cast relief Beep Beep, a mutated four-legged duckling is fixed against the Warner Brothers Roadrunner, each going off in its own direction at hyper speed. For Roadrunner the deformation of the feet is the source of entertainment and a symbol of his continued survival through speed; for the duckling a scientific and ethical dilemma is implied in the use of modern technologies, of which we have yet to learn the full range of consequences.
David Stjernholm is similarly concerned with matter and time: in Picture of a stone, 200 mio. BC natural processes have over a great length of time transubstantiated all the vegetable matter in a tree trunk into mineral, whilst preserving all the details of the living organism. Conversely, in his photographs of different types of fluorescent lights he freezes the pulsation of the light-giving electrical charge through the tubes, exposing the element of time. In the piece Seedless Grapes a graphic tool mimes the artificially produced, easily edible seedless grape, which pleases our indolence over and above reproduction.
Morten Stræde, in his circular reliefs 3rd Stone from the Sun I-III, examines the modern idea of reason and science as a demonstration of power through three different visions of human endeavour, whilst Inoculus III explores the central paradox between the original Stealth Bomber seen as an aesthetic object, and its death-bringing potential and premise. Stræde questions the degree to which we should allow science to dictate our behaviour and highlights humanity’s manoeuvering along the fine line between rationality and chaos.