SPONTANEOUS GENERATION

2007

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Spontaneous Generation

The discredited belief that living organisms can be produced by nonliving matter. For example, it was once thought that microorganisms arose by the process of decay and even that vermin spontaneously developed from household rubbish. Controlled experiments using sterilized media by Pasteur and others finally disproved these notions.

- Oxford Science Dictionary, 1996

While the notion of spontaneous generation — that vermin spring fully formed from rubbish and decay — seems ludicrous today, climate change feeds another kind of very real alarm. Global warming — a consequence of two centuries of pollution in the form of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other gases — contributes to the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps. A warmer planet has already seen a profound increase in the quantities of hosts and vectors of pathogenic microbes. The exponential occurrence of such changes suggests another kind of spontaneous generation: a post-glacial world where health crises in human and animal populations, and catastrophic climatic events, are the norm.

Spontaneous Generation focuses on the aesthetics of disaster, particularly that of global warming and the fear of escalating infectious disease. The exhibition consists of three areas. A mixed media display of crystalline ‘remnants,’ paradoxically beautiful and yet symbolic of a melting crystalline world, attests to the rapid recession of glaciers and ice shelves at both poles and in many mountainous regions of the world. In another section of the gallery, a filtered environment presents mannequins that model pseudo infection-control fashion wear and anti-microbial body accessories. Will we be able to develop protective armor to safeguard ourselves from infectious diseases? A photo series concentrates on the disturbing passage of infectious disease in humans. Throughout the exhibition, mosquitoes adhere. Ubiquitous and seemingly innocuous pests, they are the bearers of the diseases we fear: West Nile Virus, Malaria, Dengue Fever and Encephalitis.

Aurally we are serenaded by uneasy muzak and Big-Brotheresque announcements urging all to stay calm – and complacent. Wandering between melodic and discordant, this free-tempo music evokes worrisome insect whines and melancholy whale calls.

Spontaneous Generation poses the question: are we ready for the consequences of a post-glacial planet?

 


 

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