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"Grounded, Dawson City"
Carin Mincemoyer, "Grounded, Dawson City," 2007, styrofoam, plant material.
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"Grounded, Dawson City (detail)"
Carin Mincemoyer, "Grounded, Dawson City (detail)," 2007, Styrofoam, plant material.
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"Shove: Fill I"
Jefferson Campbell-Cooper, "Shove: Fill I," 2007, spruce bark, willow, driftwood.
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"Shove: Fill III"
Jefferson Campbell-Cooper, "Shove: Fill III," 2007, spruce bark.
CARIN MINCEMOYER AND JEFFERSON CAMPBELL-COOPER, The Natural and the Manufactured
ODD Gallery, Dawson City
Aug 16 – Sept 7, 2007
By Nicole Bauberger
The Yukon provides an excellent context to consider opposites — the easy assumption that natural is good and manufactured is bad falls away in a place where a person can die from lack of manufactured shelter. In this place, The Natural & The Manufactured, a project that has entered its third year of residency and exhibition at Dawson City’s Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, marks out a conceptual territory. The artists’ talks, with Carin Mincemoyer and Jefferson Campbell-Cooper, take place before the viewers are allowed to see either exhibition, and the series is serious about exploring ideas.
This year’s exhibitions offer an interesting contrast. In her show Grounded, Dawson City, Pennsylvania’s Carin Mincemoyer playfully critiques the American inclination to commodify nature. In his outdoor, site-specific installation Shove: Fill, 2007 Jefferson Campbell-Cooper of southwestern Ontario undertakes a Whitman-esque labour to become more intimate with the world, both natural and manufactured.
Mincemoyer creates a “nature park” in the Odd Gallery. The sculptor has built a boardwalk through the gallery space to keep the viewers on the “proper viewing path.” She constructed several landscapes from Styrofoam packaging from computers and other consumer products, and has planted hundreds of plants from various ecosystems in the hollows left inside the clean white foam shapes. The park’s attractions include a desert with small cacti in sand-filled computer hollows, a wetland with duckweed growing in the negative shapes left from a hammer and pliers set, and two mountains of Styrofoam sporting moss, small spruce trees and rock slides. An impeccable teal green cloth covers the floor, contrasting with the warmer greens of the plants.
Campbell-Cooper has sculpted three large tool forms using spruce, willow and driftwood.Shove: Fill I represents seven small dredge buckets shaped like those used in gold mining, and in Shove: Fill II Campbell-Cooper has made a functional front-end loader arm and bucket out of the hard white driftwood found along the river, mostly joined with wooden pins.Shove: Fill III, set up by Dawson City’s ferry docks, depicts a life-size front bulldozer scoop, pieced together of spruce bark discarded by the saw mill, and sewn with fine willow branches.
Mincemoyer sees her pieces as “models,” not only in the sense of being small-scale representations of other things, but also as an idea of how the world might be in the future. The influence of Disney World on people’s reactions to American natural spaces inspires her Grounded installations. She considers the demand for a clean, bug-free, safe and easy-access entertainment experience in Yellowstone, and wonders how far we’re willing to go to make nature to fit our desire for convenience. Yukon parks are not much like this yet, but with more signed trails and interpretive centres, it’s worth considering what could be lost.
Campbell-Cooper came to the Yukon after researching the area, intending to build using the materials he found in the region. Shove: Fill asks what it means to collect, and considers how these tools are analogs to our bodies, cupped hands, our two-boned forearms, our hinged elbows.
Mincemoyer’s show feels cool. Sunlight-balanced fluorescent bulbs shine above the plants, and boardwalks divide the tidy separate ecosystems. You cannot put a foot wrong, but in investigating this division between humans and the natural world, she possibly perpetuates it, certainly making the viewer think about the division.
Campbell-Cooper invited me to sit inside Shove: Fill III. I nestled cross-legged inside it, the curve of the scoop fitting my lower back. The smooth inner bark inside the scoop emulates the scratched-clean inner surface of such a tool, with its lumpy welds, rust and mud on the outside. Inside that lovingly sewn vessel of bark, I am inside a tree and a metal scoop at the same time. From inside I look out at the hills over Dawson. They also wear a coat of spruce.