Marina Zurkow, Necrocracy
January 10 – February 16, 2013
bitforms gallery is pleased to announce its first New York solo exhibition with artist Marina Zurkow. Exhibited widely throughout the US and recognized recently by a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, Zurkow is known for cross-disciplinary animation work and her participatory art environments.
The exhibition Necrocracy explores “governance of the dead”, focusing on the geologic chronology of oil and the culture of petrochemical production. Featuring four new projects, it furthers Zurkow’s investigations of human relationships with animals, plants and weather. The series rigorously engages politics of body’s interrelationships with landscape, and questions the Romantic-era division between the natural and human – specifically, how our society disturbs, worships and is dominated by beings that are long dead.
In 2011, Zurkow traveled to the high southern plains of the Llano Estacado in West Texas, where she met with geologists, naturalists, ranchers, activists and oilmen. The Permian Basin lies beneath these plains, between Marfa and Midland. In the Permian Period 250 million years ago, the geological riches of the area were formed, as marine microorganisms accumulated in sediments on the floor of a vast saline sea. Over millions of years, the seas dried out and these creatures transmuted into hydrocarbons.
The resulting works respond to complexities of the landscape above and below, honing in on the interdependency of humans and hydrocarbons- who, through their transformation into petrochemicals achieve a form of rebirth, even immortality. Thousands of sketches drawn from life and online research make up the character elements in Mesocosm (Wink, TX), a generative animation at the heart of Necrocracy.
Another series of animations, NeoGeo, takes on petrogeology, leveraging the various debates around fracking and global dependency on oil. Using the muted 19th Century graphical notation of rock formations, these works visualize the liquidity of the earth and depict a drill passing through deep stratifications of time.
Debuting in the exhibition is a group of soft sculptures crafted by hand with Tyvek and adorned with imagery from The Petroleum Manga, a suite of pictures depicting everyday oil-derived products such as garbage bags, water guns, plastic chickens, balloons, food containers and credit cards. These include Zurkow’s Body Bag for Humans (Nylon Polymer), Body Bag for Cats (High-Density Polyethylene /HDPE) and Body Bag for Birds (Polyethylene Terephthalate / PET), among others. Working the flexible paper-like surface into flesh, each is filled with a colorful assortment of virgin and post-manufacture debris, such as regrind and floorsweep. As death masks, the folk-art quality of these somber pieces associates them with the rituals of remembering the dead and the storytelling traditions of representational embroidery. In her tender treatment of each subject, Zurkow evokes funeral urns and the tombs of Egypt’s royalty, as the decorative patterning on each vessel recalls a technologically manufactured and human vocabulary of excess.
Marina Zurkow (b. 1962, New York) builds animations and participatory environments that are centered on humans and their relationship to animals, plants and the weather. By turns humorous and contemplative, her projects reveal that nature has long been a stage upon which we project ourselves, making ourselves other. Featured in a solo exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum in 2011, past displays of her work also include FACT, Liverpool; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Wave Hill, New York; National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.; Bennington College, Vermont; Borusan Collection, Istanbul; Pacific Northwest College of Art, Oregon; Marian Spore, New York; 01SJ Biennial, San Jose; Brooklyn Academy of Music; Museum of the Moving Image, New York; Creative Time, New York; The Kitchen, New York; Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria; Transmediale, Berlin; Eyebeam, New York; Sundance Film Festival, Utah; Rotterdam Film Festival, The Netherlands; and the Seoul Media City Biennial, Korea, among others. Marina Zurkow is the recipient of a 2011 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. She has also been granted awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Creative Capital.
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