Video art offers unique perspective
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | March 10, 2016|
Video from Maayke Schurer
A paper duck floats down a river against a smoggy backdrop that tells the story of a poisoned natural habitat.
That’s just a tiny excerpt from artist Maayke Schurer’s video-art on display at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery. The exhibit is called Nature Situations and reflects the world as seen by the animals inhabiting our planet, many of whom have felt the effects of climate change.
“Our consideration for the world around us is the biggest thing that has to change before anything can get better,” says Schurer.
The Ottawa-based artist has a background in conservation biology, but for many years has shifted her attention towards art.
“I have a very big concern for the environment and I realized biology wasn't necessarily the best method for stimulating change quickly.
“We have all the information we need to know what the problems are but we don’t have the will or compassion to make it better.”
Her work’s imagery is gloomy at times, but Schurer stresses the importance of the light and the whimsical, saying it helps keep viewers engaged. Almost every shot is filmed underwater, giving the final product a hazy, dream-like aesthetic that make the plastic sharks and paper ducks seem appropriate.
The weight of the underlying message is more easily absorbed this way, she explains. Schurer says the scientific evidence behind global warming and its accelerating effects on the planet made her miserable when she graduated from Queen’s University with a combined major in fine art and biology.
She decided to use art as a means to inform and to inspire after getting her MFA in 2009 from Scotland's Glasgow School of Art.
“Information can only go so far in terms of changing human behaviour,” she says.
People are often desensitized to climate change, said curator Laurie Carmount, but Schurer’s videos, which include the sounds of running water, birds chirping and intense winds, resonate with viewers because of their attention to detail.
“You understand things in the video are props, but she adds another layer of wrong to the situation, and you start to think, ‘that shouldn’t be there, those fish shouldn’t have to deal with plastic in their water every day,’” she says. “It’s powerful and thought provoking.”
A young boy’s parents had a difficult time getting their son to leave the gallery a few weeks ago. He was mesmerized by one of Schurer’s pieces, Carmount says, which shows whales fighting through a plastic blockade that has consumed their underwater home.
Schurer says those types of stories inspire her to continue with her work.
“I can spend hours trying to get something to work, it can even get frustrating, but it pays off when you touch people like that,” she says.
Schurer currently teaches video in Ottawa where she lives with her husband and two daughters.
Nature Situations will run until March 28.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.