susan gold / smith: Installation Views
Applied Science Exhibition, 2008

no place: installation view

no place: installation view

Artcite Inc.


Hawk and ermine Display

Inside the trophy room

no place left wall
Thoughts on “Applied Science”

The exhibition Applied Science observes and questions our scientific and cultural context. The project explores the unstable space of decoration and display of plant and animal specimens. The work has developed from photographic material that was taken from natural history specimens and displays in various public, scientific, and warehoused collections. The concerns are with the ways we make art and understand the natural world, what we identify as knowledge, and how we organize, store, and represent information.

The natural history diorama, as a form of display and public education, first developed in Sweden and in North America, but it echoes the pedagogical practice of 18th Century Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. Linnaeus’ life work represents a historical transition to modern systematic scientific practice. In Linné’s preserved home outside of Uppsala there is evidence of other forms of understanding of the natural world. These other forms are closer to artistic practices of observation and representation. The work in Applied Science is based on natural history collections in Helsinki and Turku in Finland, Stockholm Sweden, Kassel and Berlin, Germany, and also in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Chatham Ontario. An exotic collection of safari animals stored in a warehouse in Chatham Ontario marked the beginning of this body of work (“In between”) and collections in Kassel and Berlin were the most recently collected (“Holding death”). Similarities and differences in each collection expand my thoughts and my interests, proving again and again, what Levy Straus said: “Animals are good to think with.”

The exhibition is made up of two overlapping installations, Inside the Trophy Room and No Place.

The oil paintings on linen Inside the Trophy Room hang like curtains, referencing multiple histories, including the history of oil painting and the history of western science. The panels are positioned to mimic the multiple curtains of a theatre; the gazes of the animal subjects emphasize a proscenium theatre space. As I worked on this group of paintings the decorative elements became increasingly important. I experimented with the Iris wallpaper pattern developed by William Morris (News from Nowhere, 1890). As I moved my arm repeatedly over his interlocking shapes and curves, I gained tremendous admiration and pleasure from the intelligence of their formulation. The other wallpaper pattern used as a layer in some of the works is a pattern based on the walls of prints created by the botanist Linnaeus in his preserved home in Hammerby, outside of Uppsala in Sweden. Recent painted works on paper are installed Inside the Trophy Room and represent the relationships found in museum diorama and display.

The translucent photographic prints that make up the No Place installation consider the in between space of nature and of art. These layered images explore individual sites of storage and display. Each one exposes the ironies of popular natural science, themes of life and death and representation.

Susan Gold, January 2008


Acknowledgements . . .

Artcite Inc: Leesa Bringas, Christine Burchnall; Installation support: Darren Bonnici, Lisa Baggio; framing: Nancy Johns; production: Whistle Stop Larry, Parry Sound; delivery and studio mate: A.G. Smith; trophy mounts: Trudy Baumeister; access to collections: Gunilla Florby; Carl Lavoy; Eike Winckler, Ilene Winckler; funding:, Ontario Arts Council, University of Windsor; representation: CARFAC Ontario, CARCC; authors: J.Berger, M. Foucault, A.S.Byatt, K.Wonders, H. Olson; W. Benjamin, C.L. Strauss, K. Allen; scientists: D.Haffner; C. Linné; natural history collections: University of Turku BioLogia and Helsinki (Finland), Uppsala, Hammerby, and Stockholm (Sweden), Tring and London (England); Kassel and Berlin (Germany); Chatham Ontario and Winnipeg Manitoba (Canada); designs and paintings: W. Morris, IKEA, C. W. Peale . . .

Thank you . . .

home contact nobel peace project trophy room projects publications links CV