Culture Editor &
Altered States, an ongoing exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery, is a collaboration between mentor Iris Hauser and her student Cate Francis which examins the impact that technological advances have had on the human race.
Native to British Columbia, Hauser has academically and artistically ventured from Victoria to Halifax and has finally made Saskatoon home. Francis, who graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Both artists came together through Artists by Artists, a program put on by the Mendel to connect emerging artists with senior artists, helping both learn and grow.
Consisting of 12 pieces of varying styles, Altered States shows artistic ability ranging from screen print and resin to the more traditional oil on canvas. There are two works from Hauser and 10 from Francis.
“Both Cate and I believe in a kind of art that explores our emotional response to visual phenomena, colour, compositional balance, elegant lines, the perception of beauty and then using this language to explore ideas and experiences,” Hauser said.
Both Hauser and Francis worked in different mediums before the show, but the two shared a similar view on what they believe art should be. They wanted to show an extreme dystopian future displaying what the currents trends in the modern world could lead to.
For Altered States, both artists decided to show the troubling impact that technology has on people’s lives. They used images of human anatomy and made it more mechanical. In place of veins there are wires and in stead of blood there flows oil.
Hauser and Francis described the intense inclusion of technology as “altering our whole reality.”
Hauser calls for an awareness and recognition of these alterations. “We need to be mindful that we are doing something fundamentally new when we change ourselves through technology,” she said.
This is exemplified by the advent of cellular technology, which has the effect of facilitating communication between people while simultaneously distancing them.
The way we see ourselves is also changing with technology. “There needs to be mindfulness and foresight in what we do…[we need to] alter ourselves and our societies,” Hauser said. Technology is a tool that is pushing our physical boundaries, but Hauser believes the breaching of these boundaries is not being questioned.
Altered States is looking to ask these questions by presenting a haunting juxtaposition of living beings and machines — even stretching its focus beyond human societies and into the animal kingdom. There are images of fish that are being transformed into metal boats, a duck bleeding oil and a beehive constructed of pipes and machinery.
The art is meant to be a reflection of all these troubling changes that Hauser and Francis can see already happening to the people around them that seem glued to their always-on phones and tablets.
Hauser has seen the advance of technology reflect even her work as pressure continues to rise for artists to employ modern means of artistic expression.
She believes the openness to technology is an expression of some things that are inherent to the human condition: the pursuit of perfection, the desire to “construct our societies and tinker” with all things. And with technology, there is a possibility of a perceptive shift leading us to view even the human body as another machine that needs to be bettered, that needs to be perfected, while not considering the full cost of such endeavors.
Altered States is due to end its three month showing at the Mendel Art Gallery on Sept. 15.
Graphic: Iris Hauser