"Mesocosm (Northumberland UK)" (2011) by Marina Zurkow

"Mesocosm (Northumberland UK)", 2011
custom software-driven hand-drawn animation
146-hour cycle (24-minute day, 146-hour year)
color, sound, computer
display dimensions variable
Edition of 5, 2 AP

Marina Zurkow creates psychological, animated works about humans and their relationship to animals, plants and the weather. Her projects take the form of multi-channel videos, customized multi-screen computer pieces, cartoons, and participatory temporary public art works.

Nature has long been a stage upon which we project ourselves, making ourselves other. By turns humorous and mesmerizing, Zurkow's work questions the relevance of Enlightenment ideals we still predominantly live by. The series “Crossing the Waters” focused on climate change: A contemplation on catastrophe, it pictured ways in which we imagine nature within us, and nature without us. The series “Friends and Enemies” (which includes the "Mesocosm" works and "Heraldic Crests for Invasive Species") mines the intersection of bias, inclusion, and kinship in our relations with other species.

"Mesocosm (Northumberland, UK)" is an algorithmic work, representing the passage of time on the moors of Northeast England. One hour of world time elapses in each minute of screen time, so that one year lasts 146 hours. No cycle is identical to the last, as the appearance and behavior of the human and non-human characters, as well as changes in the weather, are determined by a code using a simple probability equation: seasons unfold, days pass, moons rise and set, animals come and go, around a centrally located and almost omnipresent human figure.

The man with his back to us is based on Lucian Freud’s painting of Leigh Bowery, the performance artist, designer, and drag queen whose larger than life personality helped to catalyze the interdisciplinary experimental art scene in London in the 1980s. In "Mesocosm (Northumberland, UK)", he acts as a Green Man, a corpulent bridge to the world beside the human: his nighttime excursions outside the edges of the landscape imply action beyond the wings of the constructed theatrical landscape, while by day he permits various small creatures not only to climb on him but also to feed on him, producing the only specks of color—blood red—in the work.

"Mesocosm’s" figures suggest an open, even infinite, set of beings and phenomena, unconstrained by taxonomic limits: there are cows, owls, ravens, squirrels, foxes, humans and humans in animal costumes, butterflies, refugees, bats, dumpsters, steamrollers, vans, dogs, hares, fairies, dragonflies, inchworms, spiders, hikers, bikes, swallows, smokestacks, fog, pollen, shadows, garbage, leaves, petals, snow, rain, sleet, and wind. Though the relaxed rhythms and spacious temporality of "Mesocosm" make it seem, on the surface, anything but explosive, its rendition of the human "umwelt" is founded on a sense of species life as volatile, capricious, random, and unpredictable. An expanded view of what constitutes ‘nature’ is revealed in this staging of the endless communicative events and interactions that shape the experience of human and other animals. (Adapted from a text by Una Chaudhuri).

Pleas note that this is an excerpt.

Video courtesy of the artist and bitforms gallery nyc.

To learn more about Zurkow's work, please visit:
bit.ly/yBIbgU
bit.ly/z4NRl1

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