The Pond Secrets Are Drying In The Banks (2019) was a solo exhibition featuring the work of Northern Ontario artist, Alexander Rondeau at LEFT Contemporary in Windsor, Ontario. The exhibition considered the poetic, if not subtle impacts of a beaver dam collapse located within a former logging site on the farm where he grew up in New Liskeard. The exhibition included photography, sculpture, installation, performance, and audio. As an aggressively heteronormative space — and conflictingly, a deeply personal space — the beaver dam collapse offers a unique opportunity to generate important dialogue of queer ecologies; an interdisciplinary approach to dismantling heteronormative understandings of nature and sexuality. Informed by writings and scholarship on queer phenomenology, ecological theory, object oriented ontology, abstract bodies, and affect theory, The Pond Secrets Are Drying In The Banks considered the multifaceted socio-regional implications of the presented found materials.
The central part of the exhibition was an installation of found materials retrieved from the dam collapse hanging as an ontograph; a critical spatialization technique to consider the self-reflexive relationships between the various smaller parts that make up a larger structure i.e. sticks in a beaver dam. This wood from the beaver dam holds polysemic embedded socio-regional values; discarded and left behind from the loggers and therefore deemed as having little capitalistic value, while, paradoxically, it was used by the beavers to build a new ecological environment. Within small, isolated, rural communities like New Liskeard, the forestry industry and other dominant colonial resource extraction based industries inform hegemonic understandings of gender and sexuality through deeply gendered labour practices. Heteronormativity largely becomes both product and worker of the landscape in such areas. Gathered by the beavers, the scrap wood left behind deemed to be of lesser quality than the norm achieves a new potentiality when used to build a dam, an environment, and an ecological community: much like queer spaces and communities are often formed. The ontographic installation — placed within, arguably, a queer social ecology — reminds us of both environmentally and socially damaging regionalisms, and the queer potentiality of community building that is often reactionary/connected/interwoven////////////
The exhibition also included six photographs. Four of which documented subtle changes in the landscape surrounding the beaver dam’s breaking point without ever revealing the actual beaver dam. The other two adjacent photographs documented a second beaver dam on Rondeau’s parents’ farm which was necessarily destroyed due to ongoing flooding in the fields. In contrast, these photographs depicted a considerably larger view of the broken beaver dam revealing the force used to destroy it. Inspired by biologist Michel Leclair’s field research, the audio recording of the beaver dam not only contextually located the work, but also identified the sound in which motivates, and as recently discovered, modulates beaver dam construction.
This exhibition was realized with the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council.