[ISEA2015] Artist Statement: Wendy Coburn – FABLE FOR TOMORROW

Artist Statement

Bisque-fired clay and decals 17.8 x 17.8 x 14 cm and 17.8 x 17.8 x 14 cm. (2008)

Coburn adopts Fable for Tomorrow as the title for a second related work in which two Victorian bisque toddlers, a boy and a girl, sit with their arms aloft, expressions askance as silhouettes of numerous insects are spread across their tiny and fragile bodies. These exquisite looking figurines, found at a church sale and known as piano babies, were popular in the late 1800s as decoration on grand pianos. One assumes the children’s gesture was intended as one of music appreciation, but the ambiguity of their expression enables Coburn to conjure up a very different narrative for this tiny audience. According to Sherry Turkle “we think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with”. For Turkle, evocative objects act on us emotionally and provocatively, and Coburn’s sculptures function in such a manner. Fable for Tomorrow vibrates with metaphors from our collective responses to climate change and its attendant fallout. There is no doubt the Green Revolution of the 1960s with its broad use of agricultural technologies such as irrigation, pesticides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and high-yielding crop varieties came at a cost. Half a century later, Coburn sounds the alarm, poignantly asking us to prudently reconsider Carson’s project.

  • Wendy Coburn (1963—2015), Canada, engaged in an interdisciplinary studio practice of photography, sculpture, installation and video. Her work explores a range of concerns such as popular culture, mental health, gender, whiteness, nationhood and the role of images in mediating cultural difference. Coburn’s work has been exhibited and screened in exhibitions and festivals including Landmarks (Thames Art Gallery), the Living Effect (Ottawa Art Gallery), Photophobia (Art Gallery of Hamilton), MIX (New York Gay & Lesbian Experimental Film/Video Festival), Transmediale International Media Art Festival (Berlin, Germany), Kassel Documentary Film & Video Festival, and the Dublin Lesbian & Gay Film and Video Festival.

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