Canadian Art


Adaptation: Interspecies Investigations

The Power Plant, Toronto Jun 19 to Aug 15 2010
Javier Téllez <em>Letter on the Blind, For the Use of Those Who See</em> 2007 Installation view Commissioned by Creative Time as part of Six Actions for New York City Courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich Javier Téllez Letter on the Blind, For the Use of Those Who See 2007 Installation view Commissioned by Creative Time as part of Six Actions for New York City Courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Javier Téllez <em>Letter on the Blind, For the Use of Those Who See</em> 2007 Installation view Commissioned by Creative Time as part of Six Actions for New York City Courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

The Power Plant’s latest exhibition, “Adaptation: Between Species,” reflects on our relationship to animals, not only commenting on what separates our species from others but also exploring the histrionic efforts we make to bridge the divide. With contributions from more than 20 contemporary artists, the show surveys all variety of animalia and otherness.

Camouflage, mimicry, and modification absorb the central gallery, with John Bock’s video Gast introducing the show with humor and cunning. Bock’s large-scale projection tracks a rabbit through a maze of improvised traps and widgets with editing so precise and exhilarating that he makes it difficult to pause over the art historical references that resonate within the work. The gallery around Bock takes on the feel of a teenager’s bedroom and FASTWÜRMS dominates with a panoramic installation of posters, banners, videos and text that maps the cultish and the cute in equal measure. Marcus Coates rounds out the dorm room with two videos that mesh cultural and sociological address with pratfall imitations. The challenge is in staying long enough with the pieces for them do their work. It is an intensity that sets the tone for a star-studded show that is exhausting but rewarding.

Mark Dion’s Maquettes present a touching collection of miniatures modeled after his own work. The portable museum stands on the crates it arrived in, like the bizarre vestiges from a surfaced time capsule, begging to be reburied or catalogued. Meanwhile, Lucy Gunning’s The Horse Impressionists, from 1994, discreetly lines the wall within view of Bock’s bunny. A series of women framed in soft winter light whinny like horses, the frost on their breath like so many shaking tails. Likely the most mimetic and direct inclusion in “Adaptation,” Gunning’s horse impressionists do what they do with earnestness and a measure of pride. Similarly, the video pieces from Shaun Gladwell and Javier Téllez approach interspecies relations with pause and quietude.

Senior curator Helena Reckitt, who completes her tenure at the Power Plant with this exhibition, asks in a preface panel, “What happens when humans, animals and the natural world meet? What forms of communication . . . ensue?” The answer, it seems, is video. Nearly half the show’s 29 works are videos, whether archived, transferred, projected or otherwise. What does it say about our relationship to other species when the medium we choose for its contemplation is the one we associate with baby’s first steps, graduation ceremonies and water rafting stunts? Video produces literal impressions; it records without invention, it parlays the immediate. The first words of Reckitt’s text are, "Civilization notwithstanding, we live with and among nature and animals." We do, but it pays to remember that civilization does indeed stand: and, like the show, it stands prominently, in all its technological glory. (231 Queens Quay W, Toronto ON)

This article was first published online on July 8, 2010.


  • Simon Starling

    Simon Starling’s exhibition “Cuttings (Supplement),” at The Power Plant, is part of an ongoing dialogue between artist and gallery that draws on several years of mutual support. (The Power Plant helped realize his 2005 show “Cuttings” at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel.)

  • Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby: Possibilities of Redemption

    Begin with a song. In Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby’s debut video, Rapt and Happy (1998), the first thing we hear is Duke’s voice singing “Doo doo doo...I’d love to keep you warm.”

  • Nuit Blanche: The Top 10 to Tour

    With 130 projects, 500 artists and a million viewers on the slate, there’s plenty to see at Nuit Blanche. In fact, there’s almost too much to view—which is why we’ve assembled the top 10 must-sees for contemporary art aficionados.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem