Wil Aballe Art Projects (Vancouver, CA) Presents:

A Salve of Sorts

Stephanie Aitken, Sean Alward, Scott Billings, Steven Cottingham, Beau Dick, Carolina Fusilier, Daniel Giordano, Jeff Hallbauer, Leah James, Marina Roy, Ryan Quast, Nicolas Sassoon, Evann Siebens, Lucy Tasseor Tutsweektok, Kika Thorne, Samonie Toonoo

3 - 15 June 2018

Hours 12-7pm Daily

Wil Aballe Art Projects | WAAP is a 5-year Vancouver based gallery. We are happy to be presenting at VACATION NYC, an experimental new art fair alternative model in the Lower East Side, during the month of June 2018.


There has in the west long been a fascination with the idea of pristine nature. ‘Virgin’ forests, gardens unspoiled before the cautionary “fall of man” and mist-shrouded uninhabited places – fantastic in their mystery – that exist at often mythical distance from the known and settled world. Indeed, the ideas attending such contemplations of an immaculate natural world – and what the imperialists envisioned as the New World – belie the truth that few places have escaped the consequences of human existence. However, while aggressively claiming and shaping nature in their own image humans have likewise cultivated ideas about its difference, separateness and meanings. That a poetics of nature exists makes sense (and perhaps increasingly urgently so). The related binaries between humans and nature – the tamed and the wild, the known and the unknown, and the mechanized and the untainted – offer a salve of sorts to concerns about tipping points, ocean gyres, fluorocarbons and melting icecaps. In the face of a seemingly unstoppable and increasingly injurious transformation of the world, so the value of precarious nature – as both answer and antidote – increases.

But such desperately romantic ideas about what can summarily be called ‘the environment’ turn on a Faustian paradox: human survival requires the extraction of resources the consequences of which threaten planetary existence. Heidegger understood when he turned his attention to the “question” of technology and its implications, moral and ideological. In comparing early technological interventions to later industrial ones – the windmill versus the hydroelectric dam – Heidegger posited an argument about ecological stewardship. Offering that the windmill relies on the weather to generate power that is immediate and fleeting and that the hydroelectric dam – the existence of which demands the deformation of the path of the river – captures energy that can be stored so that other technological and industrial functions can succeed and expand, he was raising a question about destiny and conscience and the role to which nature as the embodiment of possibility would ultimately be consigned.


The making of art concerned with landscape is unavoidably tied to the narratives of place – local and nationalist, Indigenous and non-Indigenous – that frame the work of looking, thinking and translating. Indeed, subtly imbedded in the 16th century Dutch word landschap (meaning, quite literally, ‘patch of ground’) quickly came to represent encompass a wide range of art forms seeking to represent the natural world – with or without people – was the inflection of the purpose of such efforts ideas about the conditions of place that were about identity, memory and the unfolding of a particular kind of narrative.

The idea of what has been called the machine in the garden – or the sweeping arc of ideas about technology and nature is a useful place from which to contemplate the thematic of the place in Canadian art of the Canadian landscape. As an expansive subject matter, the depictions of, engagements with and actions upon the land by artists represents the ongoing efforts to record, critique and communicate the character of a northern and continental environment that is wildly varied, romanticized and changeable. To be sure, one of the more revealing themes in the Canadian landscape tradition is the determination to show the human presence on the land and its modifications, vulnerabilities and injuries.

Text by Michael Prokopow