For my project entitled Periculum – which is at the Glenbow from October 7th, 2017, to January 14th, 2018 – I collected from the Internet hundreds of images of the most endangered plant species throughout Canada. I then printed each of these photographs onto inkjet paper, carefully cut the image of the plant away from its original context and recombined the specimens into a new ‘rescued’ botanical species. A self-contained, collaged plant form was generated for each of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories, plus one to represent all of Canada.
At the completion of the Periculum project I was left with over 600 sheets of inkjet paper offcuts. These offcuts are what have become the basis of my new series of photographs of collages at the Paul Kuhn Gallery entitled Absentia, which refers to the phrase “death in absentia” used when the death of a person is legally declared in the absence of their remains; not unlike when a species is declared extinct.
The series Absentia uses the documentary form of the fieldwork photograph. However, I conduct ‘virtual’ fieldwork on the Internet appropriating other photographers’ images of plant species at risk in Canada. This plays with Hito Steyerl’s “uncertainty principle of modern documentarism”, which focuses on the “intensity of the problem of truth” at this moment in time, and that “the significance of documentary form lies more in how they are organized than what they depict.” This formal re-arranging takes on “the artistic gesture of abstraction.”
When the offcut inkjet sheets in the Absentia series are stacked, fragments of images from the previous pages are revealed. A disorientation occurs when the viewer is, at times, unsure of which layer rests on top and which below. The interleaves begin to morph into one another signifying a world in continuous movement and constant change.
Jennifer Wanner would like to thank the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for their generous support of this exhibition.