Mark Dion’s Neukom Vivarium

The interview linked here raises some really vital ideas and issues for me, on a number of levels, not the least of which is intent in art creation. I am struck very much by both the political will in Dion’s work, and the underlying approach to process and the intersection of art and science. Neukom Vivarium exposes not only the artificiality of human interactions and interventions in natural systems, but also that many of these interactions are at base, what Dion describes as ‘failures.’ The intensity of the interventions necessary to both create and sustain Neukom Vivarium is absolutely a political statement; but one executed with enough sensitivity and insight to preclude the accusation of heavy-handedness.

Dion sums up the work as “an appreciation of decay as a process and as a tool for discourse.”

I have been preoccupied by these twinned notions of decay and process a great deal lately; the increasing consciousness that we are, as humans, desperate on many levels for a sense of security in the ‘sameness’ of daily life – whether we recognize it or not – and the reality decay takes many forms … and really, it’s had a bad rap. Gardens need compost after all – so does any living thing, in one way or another. Systems are dynamic if they survive … and that includes the shedding and transformation of things that are no longer vital.

He also has some salient points regarding his method of working:

So too with intent in any act of creation, but I feel this is particularly relevant to artistic practice now, and especially from the privileged position of making art in North America, in Canada, in the 21 century. Comfort zones need to be tested, limited pushed, risks taken. New materials and techniques, a different way of seeing, the risks inherent in working in completely new ways with new materials or scale or both … and how all of these elements pertain directly to the intent of the work – or of making work in general.

There is (I feel) a responsibility for engagement – or reengagement – between art making and the world, that needs to step beyond poststructuralist irony and cynicism: an integration of thought and action through an aware and conscious methodology, predicated on the conviction that art can embody and expose the transformations (and integrations) that so many of us seek in one way or another … and that this art can both reveal and provoke change.

An active practice.

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