Newest Exhibition Explores Contemporary Depictions of Nature Influenced by Technology and Environmental Degradation
Featuring Works by Edward Burtynsky, Elena Dorfman, Patricia Piccinnini, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Among Others
OKLAHOMA CITY – 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City is thrilled to announce the debut of its newest exhibition, The SuperNatural, scheduled to open Saturday, February 26 at 6pm. 21c Chief Curator Alice Gray Stites will lead a virtual conversation at 21c with featured artist Elena Dorfman, from her studio in Los Angeles, beginning at 6:30 pm.
Featuring over 80 works of art by 40 artists from all over the world, this multi-media exhibition explores the reality and representation of nature as both organic and artificial, increasingly influenced by technology and commerce, and reflecting fears and fantasies about the future.
“As images of the post-industrial world transform into the bytes and pixels of the digital age, the sublime is becoming the supernatural,” says Stites, “Landscape, once the realm of the bucolic and pastoral, now appears alluring and alarming, fantastical, threatening, and threatened, reflecting the earth’s evolution toward an Anthropocene: a planet whose contours and contents will be defined by human activity.” Visions of the Anthropocene are reflected in the photographs of threatened landscapes and waterways by Edward Burtynksy, Elena Dorfman, Justin Brice, and others. Lars Jan, Lori Nix, Simen Johan, and others employ fantasy and Surrealism to envision how humans and other species may or may not adapt to persistent climate crises.
This new world may contain hybrid territories, home to hybrid creatures who are the offspring of scientific speculation and artistic fantasy. Cloning, mutations, and other forms of genetic engineering and technical innovation create new life forms, suggestive of the uncanny: Laura Ball’s parade of animal species close to extinction whose bodies are morphing together, Sarah Garzoni’s chicken “wearing” a rabbit, a gazelle with distinctly human facial features by Kate Clark, Joshua Haycraft’s tiny bird sporting a mechanized beak at home in a Plexiglas habitat, and more. Patricia Piccinnii’s life-like silicone figures resembling animal-human hybrids offer an inquiry into our relationship with what ecological degradation, human behavior, and scientific experimentation may beget: “I am particularly fascinated by the unexpected consequences, the stuff we don’t want but somehow must accommodate,” says Piccinni. “There is no question as to whether there will be undesired outcomes; my interest is in whether we will be able to love them.”
The aesthetics of the digital age fluctuate from dazzling to devastating, charting a cyclical progression beyond what either nature or technology alone may dictate. The combination of beauty and terror that Romantic painters termed sublime is echoed and amplified in works by Dorfman, Anthony Goicolea, Alice Pixley Young, and Chris Doyle, which directly reference and interrogate 19th century American and British landscape traditions. Increasingly shaped and perceived through digital code, “the encrypted landscape,” observes Doyle, “is a place that contains multiple realities.” Doyle’s Waste_Generation and Reflector, along with software-based works by Tabor Rabak and Jacob Kudsk Steensen, use technology to connect inner psychological landscapes with exterior eco-systems. Presented in the dedicated video lounge at 21c Oklahoma City, Steensen’s HD video works, Primal Tourism and Aquaphobia offer an immersive engagement with how we shape and share time and space on planets we both occupy and imagine.
In these still and moving images of land and cityscapes, and in the taxidermy and fabricated figures of The SuperNatural, nature meets technoculture, and the new natural is both organic and artificial. Invoking past and future in a critique of the present, The SuperNatural illuminates how the dreams and detritus of the industrial era generated the promise and peril of the digital age, and explores the potential for adaptation to the visceral and virtual realities of the future.