TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: Sebastião Salgado: Genesis at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

A line of zebras drinking insync at a pond
© Sebastião Salgado Courtesy of Amazonas images

“Deserts that we made, that we provoked with our own hands.”

The beauty of Sebastião Salgado’s message in Genesis? That the solution really is so simple! It’s not without hard work but if we want to start to reverse the damage done it is doable and Sebastião has proven it with his own hands on his own land.

Upon inheriting his parent’s cattle ranch in Brasil, the rainforest that was already almost 50% gone when he was a child was now diminished to 0.5%. Experiencing the devastation of the deforestation that had occurred over the decades of living far away, the love of his life, his wife Lélia, dared him with a “crazy idea.”

“Why don’t you put back the rainforest that was here before. You told me you were born in paradise. Let’s build paradise again.”  And so began Instituto Terra.

The result?

From this…

Image of land that no longer has trees. In a valley a cluster of buildings stand.

To this!

The after shot of the land with no trees now completely covered with trees. In a valley a cluster of buildings stand.

GENESIS is a global call to action.

Steven Laurie, the Associate Project Manger at the ROM, recounts this story:

I was lucky enough to have a brief conversation with a visitor in the gallery a few days after Genesis opened to the public. The individual, who was in their mid 20’s, questioned Sebastião Salgado’s notion of untouched landscapes by presenting a compelling argument: “The landscapes, people and animals depicted in the photos cannot be removed or isolated from the environmental impacts experienced globally.”

While initially Salgado’s idea of untouched landscapes presented a problem for the visitor, it also provided a great starting point for a richer conservation. We discussed how Genesis, conceptually from title to the photos shown, communicates a desire to prospect a “truth” or in the least seek an “origin” from which to measure, map or index change. From this viewpoint, the visitor suggested the idea of Genesis possibly being a story created to incite environmental activism through an individual’s “revelation” and journey for “faith”.  He finished our chat by saying, “You can’t fault Salgado for trying!”   

“Curated by Lélia Wanick Salgado, GENESIS takes you on a journey to rediscover the far corners of the world and urges you to consider what is left of our planet, what is in peril and what is left to be saved.”

The images in the exhibit that moved me the most were the ones where human beings are wrapped in the intimacy of their relationship with their environment. I am in agreement that the people pictured in the images cannot be “removed or isolated” from the rest of the world and are part of the cumulative impact but what comes forth from their relationship to their environment is an understanding of how to innovate with design – design that is sustainable leaving the lightest of footprints.

A group of dark skin women stand with their backs to the camera. Long woven bags, like sacks, hang from their heads. Yali women. West Papua, Indonesia. 2010. © Sebastião Salgado. Courtesy of Amazonas images. 

The image above is of women in Indonesia with the ‘perfect bag’! These beautiful bags are hand woven with orchid fibers.

Groupd of dark skin men and women huddled close to each other making fire. San people make a fire. Botswana. 2008. © Sebastião Salgado. Courtesy of Amazonas images.

Despite what we may assume, the subsistence life of the San of Botswana leaves much time for leisure and days spent in the familiar company of family and friends.

Snow storm conditions with sun shining through the squalls. A woman in with sleighs and a hide tent pitched behind her.North of Ob River. Inside the Arctic Circle. Yamal Peninsula. Siberia. Russia. 2011. © Sebastião Salgado Courtesy of Amazonas images.

Sebastião’s images of the Nenets of Siberia show the lightness of being that comes with a nomadic culture that follows the seasons for the sake of their reindeer herds. Easy come. Easy go. The freedom of a sustainable lifestyle.

Important lessons for a post-modern world weighed down by the burdens of a lifestyle of accumulation.

GENESIS CLOSES THIS LABOUR MONDAY, SEPT 2. DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO SEE THIS MOVING & BEAUTIFUL EXHIBIT!

Follow Genesis and the ROM on Facebook and twitter @ROMContemporary

TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: “Edward Burtynsky: Oil” at the Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Poster for Edward Burtynsky: Oil at Museum of Nature with young man standing in front of beached oil tanker

QUESTION: “When we run out of oil, what will we lose? What will we gain?”

ANSWER: “We will lose what we know, what we are used to and comfortable with. We will gain the unknown, and the opportunity to create a new way of being.

“We will lose a mistake in history. We will gain a new beginning whether we like it or not.”

Anyone who has experienced Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s work knows that it at once attracts and repels. He frames our modern condition of dependence on oil in such a way that despite the tragedy of the landscapes there is a grace in how it moves us to remember what was there before and what we have lost. That pain of loss hopefully compels us to protect what we still have.

Early bipedal footprints saved in volcanic rockLike the Australopithecus footprints in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania the oil trapped in the Bengali men’s footprints speaks to our Home Erectus (de)evolution. Can we do better?

In their comment section, the Canadian Museum of Nature has collected some important thoughts that prove may be we can.

QUESTION: “Imagine that the last drop of oil was used up today. When you get up tomorrow morning, how would your life change?”

ANSWER: “In the beginning it would be mayhem on Earth, but adaptation would be necessary to survive and continue. The strongest and smartest will come out of this and learn much along the way.”

Image of a man's footprints solidified in sand with oil pooling into them.
Edward Burtynsky, Recycling #10, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2001. Chromogenic color print. Photograph © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Howard Greenberg & Bryce Wolkowitz, New York

QUESTION: “What stands out as the most striking image in this exhibition? Why?”

ANSWER: “The images in Bangladesh – oil at the expense of the environment and the world’s poor.”

“Seeing barefoot workers cleaning up and dealing with our “oil mess” is a reminder that we are all connected, and nothing we do is without a result.”

QUESTION: “Future historians might call the 20th century the Century of Oil. What do you think the 21st century will be known for?”

ANSWER: “The century of consequences.”

Hopefully the 21st will also been known as the The Century of Change.

Edward Burtynsky: Oil
Canadian Museum of Nature
Ottawa, Canada
until Labour Day Monday, September 2, 2013.

Follow the Museum of Nature on Facebook & twitter @museumofnature.

Image of Edward Burtynsky, Shipbreaking #23, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2000. Chromogenic color print. Photograph © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Howard Greenberg & Bryce Wolkowitz, New York

WRITTEN ON THE BODY/ POLITICS OF POETRY: Iranian Artists & the Power of Script Pt 1

Cover of magazine with woman in chador, the barrel of a gun pointing out beside her right ear and Farsi script written over her face.

Establishing the Vocabulary of the Visuals

When Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s photography first started appearing the language, whether you understood Farsi or not, was explosive.

The images mixed violence, tenderness, and sensuality in a way I had never encountered before. I was used to seeing women valued in art as an aesthetic but not as a stage upon which a woman could perform an act of defiance by literally writing the script of her own point of view upon the body.

This was 1990s and the voices of women artists, especially of non-Western origin, were still muffled under the (wet) blanket of Modernity’s traditions in the way we were to experience art, talk about art as well as conduct the business of art.

Above image from Islamic Arts Magazine article on Shirin Neshat.

“I feel a strong parallel between the writings of contemporary Iranian poets and my images, which visualize the metaphors that are so important in the text.” ~ Shirin Neshat in World Art Magazine, 1996

no one is thinking about the flowers
no one is thinking about the fish
no one wants to believe
the garden is dying
that the garden’s heart is swollen under the sun
that the garden
is slowly forgetting its green moments
~ Forugh Farrokhzād

Above image from Islamic Arts Magazine article on Shirin Neshat.

For me, the contemporary art I was studying in university and experiencing in galleries felt foreign and unrecognizable – not so much to my eyes but to my soul. In the experience of Shirin’s work I found a homeland. It was the gestures – the female hands and lips. It was the look in the eyes staring from one female to another. This time a woman’s gaze was directing the compositional outcome.

Photograph on page of magazine with woman holding a gun between her feet and Farsi script written on the bottom of them.

Since that time there has been an outburst of women in art. Internationally the work of women is some of the most exciting work to be encountered. The art is layered with explorative technique and quick cleverness as well as being emotionally charged.

But the commentary provided in the work is not exclusive to the female mind. Much of the work being produced is about the experience of being human.

Sona Safaei-Sooreh’s installation Alphabet and Border, currently showing at York Quay Gallery (Harbourfront Centre) as part of curator Sanaz Mazinani‘s The  Third Space Exhibit uses a video of English text converging with Farsi script to get the audience to consider the contemporary condition of ever collapsing boundaries.

Sona Safaei-Sooreh installation “Alphabet and Border”. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Border is a video installation in which Farsi and English texts move towards a corner of a room and disappear on the borderline of two walls. It is about arbitrariness of rules and regulations, the sense of in-between-ness, duality and ambivalence that one experiences in a transcultural situation.

The borderline is a narrow vertical line between two walls: the joint. The place two walls meet.  This very “thin line” changes the direction of one’s eye, all of a sudden similar to geopolitical borders in between countries. One step back or forth one is occupied with different laws and orders.”

This beautiful short by Elnaz Maassoumian treats text in a different way less about its abstraction and more about the poetics of its meaning as interpreted by the viewer.

Untitled from Elnaz Maassoumian on Vimeo.

From literal translation of text back over to abstraction Elnaz’ piece featured in The Third Space exhibit is about the “Poetics of Space”.

Image from curator Sanaz Mazinani‘s Facebook page.

“I am interested in Gaston Bachelard’s idea from The Poetics of Space. Bachelard talks about different kinds of spaces: nests, shells, corners…These spaces are approached both from their physical and metaphorical aspects: they offer refuge and constitute ‘doors for the imagination’.  I am interested in the potentials of space. By this I mean the exploration of the possible uses that a space offers. I am approaching this through the reconfiguration of a given space to accommodate specific needs which can change over time. For these purposes, flexible, malleable materials constitute ideal means. They can be easily retooled or reshape to conform given purposes. They also open rich possibilities for redefinition of the relation between private-public; in-out; isolation-connection; visible-invisible.”   More images on Elnaz’s website

To gain more insight into Shirin’s powerful imagery, both in the still and moving image, MIXED BAG MAG recommends Tirgan Festival at Harbourfront Centre this coming weekend. Shirin will be giving talks on her body of work and there will be screenings of both her feature film Women Without Men as well as her shorts. All events are FREE!

FRIDAY, JULY 19
7 pm – Correlations of Visual Arts & Cinema Q & A with Shoja Azari, Shirin Neshat, Babak Payami @ Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre

9 pm – Collection of Short Films by Shirin Neshat @ Studio Theatre Harbourfront Centre


SATURDAY, JULY 20

1 pm – Women Without Men Screening with Q & A @ Studio Theatre Harbourfront Centre

9:30 pm – Women Without Men Screening with Q & A

ONGOING

The Third Space Exhibit is ongoing until September 15 at Harbourfront Centre.

Work by Gita Hashemi. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

CONTACT CONTINUED: Complete List of the Ongoing Exhibitions

Office door opening to large mounds of small photographs piled for gallery installation
Photography by Ahmed Sirry for Mixed Bag Mag.

TORONTO’S ANNUAL PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL
Missed it? Oops! Well good news is you can still catch a few more exhibits running past the May 31 end date. Here’s Mixed Bag Mag’s comprehensive list of what’s still on for Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

LOCAL TORONTO PHOTOGRAPHERS

  1. ENDING JUNE 8 – Edith Maybin’s THE GIRL DOCUMENT @ O’born Contemporary
  2. ENDING JUNE 9 – Janieta Eyre’s THE MUTE BOOK @ Katherine Mulherin Art Projects
  3. ENDING JUNE 16 – Sara Angelucci’s PROVENANCE UNKNOWN  @ Art Gallery of York University
  4. ENDING JUNE 16 – Mark Peckmezian PORTRAIT @ Harbourfront Centre
  5. ENDING JUNE 28-  Janieta Eyre CONSTRUCTING MYTHOLOGIES @ University of Toronto Art Centre Lounge
  6. ENDING JULY 7 – Mark Filipiuk SKOLA / SCHOOL @ Art Gallery of Mississauga


CANADIAN PHOTOGRAPHERS

  1. ENDING JUNE 29 – Andrew Wright’s PENUMBRA @ University of Toronto Art Centre


INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS

  1. ENDING JUNE 9 – Chris Marker’s (France) MEMORY OF A CERTAIN TIME @ Tiff
  2. ENDING JUNE 15 – Erik Kessels’ (Holland) 24HRS IN PHOTOGRAPHY @ Contact Gallery
  3. ENDING JUNE 15 – Danny Lyon’s (United States)  THE BIKERIDERS @ Stephen Bulger Gallery
  4. ENDING JUNE 15 – Doug Ischar’s (United States)  UNDERTOW @ Gallery 44 & VTape
  5. ENDING JUNE 29 – Botto + Bruno (Italy) I WAS ALREADY LOST @ Pari Nadimi Gallery
  6. ENDING SEPTEMBER 2 – Sebastião  Salgado’s (Brazil) GENESIS @ The Royal Ontario Museum
  7. ENDING OCTOBER 20 – Various Artists LIGHT MY FIRE @ Art Gallery of Ontario
  8. ENDING JANUARY 2014(India) Raja Deen Dayal’s BETWEEN PRINCELY INDIA AND THE BRITISH RAJ @ The Royal Ontario Museum 


Photography by Ahmed Sirry for Mixed Bag Mag.

EXHIBITION: Human Rights Human Wrongs @ Ryerson Image Centre

Martin Luther King sitting with group of people standing around him
Image from www.torontoist.com.

EXHIBIT – Human Rights Human Wrongs
Curated by Mark Sealy of Autograph ABP

Runs until April 14

Main Gallery at Ryerson Image Centre, Ryerson U
More info on RIC’s website.

Inside gallery with long purple wall and framed black and white prints
Image from www.blogto.com.