[ISEA2015] Artist Statement: Wendy Coburn – SILENT SPRING

Artist Statement

Bronze 47 x 16.5 x 14 cm. (2008)

Somewhere between 2005 and 2007, Wendy Coburn found a consumer-grade pesticide sprayer in her neighbourhood. It was an elegant machine, with a wooden-handled pump and silhouettes of numerous species of insects mapped over the barrel. For Coburn, “It was a beautiful object that claimed no discretion or bias in its task.” With as much attention to detail and terrible beauty the artist has replicated the spray gun in bronze. Titled Silent Spring, the sculpture is directly inspired by Rachel Carson’s germinal 1962 text of the same name. With remarkable foresight Carson warned of the dangers of synthetic pesticides, and in fact referred to the chemicals as biocides for they were toxic to all living beings. A prescient allegory comprises the first chapter of Silent Spring. Titled Fable for Tomorrow, it tells the story of a vibrant country village whose children and elders, meadows, creeks and skies, fall prey to a strange silence as a white dust covers the countryside. Coburn redirects this story to her own community. Fearing for her loved ones, she etched the names of friends and family across the spray gun equating her human companions with the endangered lives insects, animals and  botanicals that Carson so vigorously defended.

  • 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.

Text with images (PDF)  p.  122