Monday, April 19, 2010

Now & Zen: Earth Day Interview with Iain Baxter&

Earth Day is happening this Thursday, and boy, could the planet use it. Maybe even more than one day per year, dontcha think?

Anyway, Toronto org No 9 Contemporary Art and the Environment does spend more than one day a year thinking about the planet. Their latest project is Iain Baxter&'s Ecoartvan, a biodiesel-fuelled exhibition of sorts that's also a jumping off point for a variety of Grade 4 eco workshops developed by Pearl van Geest. (I think the schools aspect of this project is pretty great.)

In a Baxter& solo show last year at Corkin Gallery, I really enjoyed the boldness and overtness with which Baxter& addressed environmental destruction. (Spearing stuffed animals on a tall pole is one example, attaching taxidermied animals to car mufflers another.) I got to ask Baxter& a little more about that in a Q&A that appears in today's National Post. To wit:

Q A lot of your art for this project and others is built out of toy animals. Why use something so artificial to talk about what's natural?

A When I was younger, I spent many years in zoology museums, where there are drawers filled with birds, or jars filled with all kinds of specimens. My idea was to use stuffed animals because they're very much about how we revere nature. By putting them in jars in artworks like Animal Preserve, I could suggest that if we're not careful with our environment, we'll be looking at animals only that way in the future.

Q Where do you find the stuffed animals you use in your art?

A Well, you wouldn't want to come to my house! I have thousands of them. I know people in all the local stores and sometimes they say, "Come and fill up a garbage bag for $2." It's interesting; some types of animals are very difficult to find, like a beaver, or a hippopotamus. Bears though, there's, like, a million.

One thing that's nice about this project is World Wildlife Fund is giving the Grade 4 workshop kids little stuffed animals of endangered species. I think that gives kids a different consciousness about environmental issues. If they hang onto it, it's almost become a little sacred thing.

He also talks about zen, and how universities are the Medicis of the present day. Page B12 of today's Post if you're interested in reading more.

Image of Iain Baxter&'s Ecoartvan at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto by No 9 Contemporary Art and the Environment

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