Impossible Models

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Main Space/Parkade/U-Hall

Runs from April 15, 2016 to May 21, 2016

Opening reception Friday April 15, at 8:00 PM

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Impossible Models 

“The term symbiosis was originally coined by the surgeon Heinrich Anton de Bary in the year 1879 to mean any association between different species, with the implication that the organisms are in persistent contact but that the relationship need not be advantageous to all the participants… Over the years this definition has changed, and it is now widely accepted by biologists […] that symbiosis is an association between different species from which all participating organisms benefit”. [1] This newest definition illustrates that, in the natural world, a distinct sense of communalism and camaraderie is ever-present for the health and function of the environment. As I envision different species working together in an empathic fashion, it conjures a very real and vivid question in my mind: Where did we go wrong as a species?
For their two-person show Impossible Models, Sarah Nance and Michael Doerksen co-inhabit TRUCK’s main space. It is within this time that they work together to solve artistic problems in order to create a harmonious, mutualistic space for the viewer. Doerksen and Nance share many common central themes in their work, yet formally are very autonomous from one another. Time, space and place play a role within each of their artistic investigations.
For Nance, an inquiry into these relationships is described as ‘between light, geology and time, elements that contribute to our understanding of place’. Through the use of installation, Nance’s aim is to create a precise ‘rupture’ to heighten the viewer’s awareness of the ‘subtleties of our surroundings’. In many ways Nance’s description of her work is similar to the rhizome described in the book A Thousand Plateaus(1980) by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Taken from botany, the rhizome describes a system that opposes hierarchical dualism and binaries, but can be understood as multiplicities.
According to Deleuze and Guattari, “Every rhizome contains lines of segmentarity according to which it is stratified, territorialized, organized, signified, attributed, etc., as well as lines of deterritorialization down which it constantly flees. There is a rupture in the rhizome whenever segmentary lines explode into a line of flight, but the line of flight is part of the rhizome. These lines always tie back to one another.” [2] We can think of the rhizome as a map—never at one point having a fixed place, but rather an interconnected series of arteries. In this exhibition, Nance has adapted a site responsive installation (a veil to cover all stones) for the gallery. When this work is brought into the white cube, the viewer is placed in a non-site. The elements of the land enter the gallery while the place of origin is not necessarily known; yet there is an innate interconnectedness one cannot help but feel. Through Nance’s work, we take a metaphorical trip to these terrestrial and extraterrestrial places that normally are excluded from our perspective. 
Doerksen’s work also investigates similar notions of place, time and space. For Impossible Models, Doerksen has created ‘spherical hollow planet-like sculptures that are constructed with dozens of paper-thin layers of pigmented plaster-based material’ and that investigate the phenomenon of lichen. Through conversations with Doerksen, he has stated that the lichen sculptures ‘become objects of science fiction where the sphere can be a model of lichen rich planets—as a dystopian depiction of a post-human Earth’. In addition to his spherical sculptures, Doerksen has created an homage to his now deceased Tillandsia, otherwise known as the air plant.
In both of these works Doerksen is exploring the realities of life, death, place and space. In referring to the spherical sculptures as ‘objects of science fiction,’ Doerksen is exploring the notion of an non-empathetic civilization, one whose fate is ultimately doomed. The lichen becomes a symbolic gesture of peace and harmony through the use of symbiosis.
The thought of two separate species working together to create a long lasting functioning bond seems like a utopian dream, but one needn’t look further than nature to find these mutualistic experiences. Similar to the theory of the rhizome, our own logic can seem flawed at times; life itself is not a hierarchal binary but a series of ephemeral multiplicities, with no fixed state.

[1] A. E. Douglas, The Symbiotic Habit. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2010), 5. Web. 6 Mar. 2016.
[2] Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1987), 9. Web. 5 Mar. 2016. 
Essay: Brian Wennerstrom 

Michael Doerksen

Michael Doerksen is an artist originally from Victoria, BC who makes mostly sculpture, but sometimes other things like drawings and music. He received an MFA in Sculpture from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. He has played in several bands, most notably as the lead guitarist for Sunset Rubdown. Doerksen currently lives in Banff, Alberta working at The Banff Centre as the Sculpture Facilitator for Visual + Digital Arts.

Sarah Nance

Sarah Nance is an American artist working in installation, drawing and sculpture. Light occupies a central role in her work, as it is intimately related to considerations of perception, interconnectedness and ephemerality. In 2014, Nance presented at Third Culture Conversations, a conference brinigng together artists and scientists whose research spans the crossover between the two investigative fields. She has also participated in artist residencies in Reykjavík and Skagastönd, Iceland. Nance completed her MFA at the University of Oregon and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Fiber at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was previously a Fountainhead Fellow. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at Disjecta and The White Box in Portland, OR; Loft 594 in Brooklyn, NY; SÍM Gallery in Reykjavík, Iceland; FrontierSpace in Missoula, MT and SEDIMENT in Richmond, VA. Nance's work has been supported by recent grants from the Oregon Arts Commission and Virginia Commonwealth University.