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stone witness

November 30, 2019 – January 19, 2020

Stone Witness

Artist Abbas Akhavan, Tanya Busse, Liljana Mead Martin

Inquiry What are generations?

Image: Liljana Mead Martin, The Bedrock Gardener, Gypsum, plaster, hydrostone, cement, black sand, red sand, juniper, reflective insulation, found plastics, dry pigment, 2019, Photo by Denis Ogrinc

Stone Witness

In rocky mounds, boulders, and cliffs, when shadows fall, where lichen grows, where cracks appear, we see faces. However grotesque, we see ourselves. This desire to be reflected in the stony landscape also has scientific grounding, as we are made of minerals.

But this empathy with the land has limits. What do shareholders and mine operators perceive as they level entire mountains? How are we reflected in tar sands operations that move more sediment in a year than all of the world’s rivers combined? How do we understand the discrepancies between those who profit from extraction and those who feel the effects? Who is burdened with the role of witnessing and how much can they endure? We project our visages onto the land, but a Stone Witness sees it differently and can give testimony for millennia.

Through drawing, video, and sculpture, artworks by Abbas Akhavan, Tanya Busse, and Liljana Mead Martin consider human cultures of extraction in relation to geological time. Works in the exhibition include paintings made with organic light sensitive materials on paper made of stone, a video installation that conjures resistance to the resource extraction that fuels the military industrial complex, and sculptural works that trace connections between the body and the violence of the endless excavation and construction in the built environment.

This exhibition is set in a place with a very specific relationship to geology. Nanaimo, BC is a former coal mining town on the territory of the Snuneymuxw people, marked by petroglyphs carved in stone that speak to origin stories and cultural rights to the land, and undercut by mine shafts extracted through one hundred years of subaltern labour. That Nanaimo rides the northern edge of the Cascadia subduction zone makes the site of this exhibition even more resonant.

Thinking across geological time, Stone Witness takes place in a year in which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks What are generations?

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Nanaimo Art Gallery is situated in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of Snuneymuxw First Nations, and we are grateful to operate on Snuneymuxw territory.