Washington Post, CBC and others: The art of dark reflection
News sites have been reporting on alumna Mia Feuer’s haunting exhibit called “An Unkindness,” recently on display at the Corcoran Museum in Washington DC, the city she now calls home. The rising star is a former Winnipegger [BFA/04] whose latest art was inspired by imposing Canadian landscapes that highlight an unsettling side of a continent so rich in natural resources: the aftermath of resource extraction.
The eponymous sculpture, one of five pieces in the show, is named for a gathering of ravens (called “an unkindness”): a sprawling, 30 foot sculpture that hangs suspended above another work, a black-mirrored skating rink directly below it. What the artist calls an “inverted symbol of Canada,” the black rink is made with the same material used in synthetic kitchen cutting boards and could be skated on by visitors. These were two of five pieces in the show, all based on Feuer’s dark reflections on research and a visit to a Suncor “reclamation site” in the Athabasca tar sands, and by her trip to the Arctic, now considered the future of oil.
Though Feuer notes that the exhibit isn’t intended as a direct critique of the industry — her own work is made of petrochemical materials, and as Feuer says, “I’m implicated in it” — the sculptures “are meditations on the ways that oil threatens to fundamentally alter the Canadian landscape,” says Washington City Paper.
The fascinating profile and story tells more about Feuer’s inspiration on visiting the nightmarish post-extraction site in Alberta:
“I always in the back of my mind just assumed that somebody somewhere was cleaning this up. I just always thought someone had a plan,” Feuer says. “There I was, standing with this guy, and he’s telling me, ‘This is the solution.’ This is not a solution. This to me was clearly like, we’re doomed.”
The landscape she describes looks like a Boschian nightmare: a remedial field of wheat, planted to leach out the toxins and metals that remain in the soil, surrounded at the perimeter by refinery flares. The wheat, an unexpected newcomer to what had once been boreal forest, attracted mice—the basic foodstuff of any animal ecosystem. In order to kill the mice and contain the toxins, the geo-engineers at Suncor brought in a top predator. They planted inverted birch trees, roots reaching into the air, which serve as roosts for imported birds of prey—an unkindness of ravens.
Feuer’s first museum show is being called “one of the boldest contemporary-art exhibits the Corcoran has ever mounted” and “a proclamation.” The show ran from Nov. 2013 to the end of February 2014.