Ecotopia explores environmental conservation, destruction and the cacophonous blend of architecture and decay in our technological age. The exhibition borrows its title from Ecotopian fiction, a subgenre of the utopian or dystopian, where a vision for a world is either ideal or nightmarish. An element of science-fiction or futurism surfaces in some of the work represented in this exhibition, where artists are offering an alternative for postmodern living that enables a harmonious co-existence of nature and technology rather than environmental havoc. The artists also ponder the expressionistic grandeur of nature, and how this has become suffocated and overladen with layers of city debris and decaying architecture.
Why and how do we recreate and mediate nature? Using a variety of strategies and materials, the artists in this exhibition point out the absurdities, excesses and the challenges to these situations, and the amnesiac response our population has taken up to these new falsehoods. In BGL’s Pinocchio a dangling chainsaw represents the proliferance of clear-cutting in Canada’s forests. David Brooks uses the material language of sidewalks, plant material and infrastructural devices to address the irrational efforts we exert to maintain a conflicted relationship with the natural world, as evinced in the common traits of our built environment. Rodney Graham’s photographs also suggest the extent to which our experience of landscape, so crucial to Canadian culture, is mediated rather than natural. He literally turns perceived romantic visions or notions of nature on their heads.
Other artists in this exhibition suggest that while this world we live in may be topsy-turvy, the new and decaying structures that we have created have a suggested beauty in themselves, a beauty of decay where objects, monuments, and sites that have been overtaken by weeds, graffiti, rabbit holes or worms are in fact a new archaeology for a new generation. This is particularly evident in the work of Isabelle Hayeur, where the artist investigates both conservation sites rich in natural and human history and disturbed sites in stages of disappearance, or in Tristram Lansdowne’s drawings which present landscapes dominated by abandoned structures that host new architectural growth. With its ability to perplex and entice in equal measures, Ecotopia promises to unsettle comfortable notions about dominion and progress.