Pressure Cracks, 2020, Ice Follies Biennial, frozen Lake Nipissing, curated as Minor Hockey Curatorial (with Robin Alex McDonald), featuring works by Meg Feheley, jenna dawn maclellan, Christine Negus, Emily Pelstring, and Jon Sasaki
Presented by the Near North Mobile Media Lab as part of Ice Follies 2020, a biennial festival that takes place atop frozen Lake Nipissing. Curated by Minor Hockey Curatorial (Robin Alex McDonald and Alexander Rondeau).
Pressure cracks are caused by fluctuations and instabilities; in the heat of the day, the ice expands and, in cases of rapid transitions to the cold of night, the ice contracts, ruptures, and splinters violently. These ruptures exist as harbingers of environmental instability that prompt us to be more attentive to our actions, as well as to the world around us. Relatedly, this multimedia exhibition considers sites of vulnerability not only within physical environments, but within our contemporary social and political structures as well. Pressure Cracks asks: when do we falsely assume security, and what are the risks of these assumptions? What is fleeting, and what can we trust to endure?
Pressure Cracks lures viewers onto the ice with a familiar northern scene — an ice-fishing shack accompanied by a snowmobile, preparations for a campfire, and an industrial tarp — only to reveal that this scene is actually one made of fantasy and artifice. Rather than steel and rugged wood, the snowmobile and logs are soft-sculpture works delicately stuffed and sewn with brightly coloured textiles by jenna dawn maclellan. Moreover, the neighbouring industrial tarp is revealed to have fine, thoughtful cut-outs. Through a process akin to birch bark biting (an Indigenous mark-making practice using thin sheets of folded birch bark which are then bitten to make designs), Megan Feheley’s brilliant orange mola: consent tarp uses tarpaulin to index and transfer knowledge visually in a world that may one-day be without birch bark.
Beside the ice-fishing shack, visitors are confronted with Emily Pelstring’s ghostly animations, which appear to emerge out of cracks in the ice itself. Inside the shack, two videos play on loop: Jon Sasaki’s Pictures of the Floating World follows a bouncy castle cast adrift on a lake, kept afloat only by a small, gas-powered generator. Christine Negus’s our home watches a tiny wooden cabin catch fire while two ghosts look on. As one ghost smiles, the other frowns — a visual representation of the range of possible responses to the destruction of the world as we know it.