…and so it begins, a steamy evening in Toronto, at the readhead gallery, the remotest space at the back of 401 Richmond street building…
CC:me borrows the title from the pre-computer fax machine nomenclature “Carbon Copy” where Carbon is also one of the materials featured in this mixed media installation. In this work, Carbon is interspersed and mixed with live bacteria in a way that reminds us of how technology and biology come to intersperse in our body by means of signs (drawings), words (poetry) and sound. Carbon comes from the chemical mixture contained in the thermal transfer rolls of our old fax machines, which the artist collected over a span of 10 years; the colorful (pink) colonies of live bacteria originate from halobacterium sp. NRC-1, a non-pathogenic bacterium living in a high salt environment, sealed in petri dishes. Both carbon and bacteria are disseminated in a seemingly volatile, inscrutable and rather infectious way, the former thanks to the fax machine, the second through division, multiplication and proliferation.
Carbon and Bacteria are linked in a variety of ways. Our bodies are made of carbon and bacteria (materially, since they are both part of our metabolism), as well as of technology and biology (we use them to communicate with each other and to the outside world). Both Carbon and Bacteria are in their own way means of communication. In order to accentuate the coexistence of carbon and bacteria, technology and biology, Whittaker has manipulated used thermal rolls from the Toronto Environmental Alliance, the organization she works for.
Old fax imprints of environmental political campaigns and useless commercial messaging are transferred onto a variety of supports, from wax boards, to sheets of mylar to petri dishes (sometimes combined with the bacteria colonies). the messages, jammed together, are contained into identical figurines reminiscent of human bodies but treated differently, creating a general sense of external homogeneity, as if these bodies were soldiers parading in front of the audience: they appear alone, they form alliances, they surround or are surrounded by bacteria. Yet, their “guts” are always different and jammed in different fashions. Whittaker says that the rolls so prepared “..become shadowy iterations of the body, images of mutable histories, degraded texts and transformative ecologies.”
..Whittaker’s elegant installation gives a non-didactical, yet very precise sense of the mutations of the myriad ecologies that infect each other thanks to the noise and the imperceptible changes of their surrounding environment made of sound (created by sound artist Tom Auger) and spoken words (the poetry by Julie Roonda, Jim Johnstone, Ruth Roach Pierson and Larry Sulky, who performed for us tonight).
of note was the sound by Tom Auger played during the opening: a composition with motifs of replication, generative degradation and “infection”. you can listen to it and download the whole piece here