- Issue One: Failure
- Issue Two: Territory
- Issue Three: Bare Life
- Issue Four: Slowness
- Issue Five: Affective Framing: Cinematic Experience and Exhibition Design
- Issue Six: Aesthetics of Heterogeneity
- Issue Seven: Responding to Site Specificity
Trevor Van den Eijnden
I am a research-based visual artist that works in a variety of media, including photography, painting, and sculpture. I was raised in Nova Scotia – a place frequented by hurricanes and sharp shifts in the weather that had immediate impacts on the local architecture and infrastructure. I early on developed a desire to make sense of both how we understand the impact the natural world has on our built systems and structures as well as the dramatic, multiple impacts we have back on the world when we treat nature as an “other” – something outside of us to be managed, resisted, or passively accepted.
From this early interest, my practice evolved to become deeply concerned with the immediate and future implications and adverse impacts of the paradoxes I see as inherent to binary nature/human thinking. That deep concern lead me to explore other modes of knowing to resist the systems and structures of late-capitalism, which support and are supported by ideologically-driven nature/human binaries. To quote Baudelaire from “The Painter of Modern Life,” the very concept of nature is nothing more than “the voice of our own self-interest.” It is visual evidence of this “voice” that I seek to uncover and display in my practice.
My work, then, is a critical exploration of examples of design that express this “self-interest” in terms of the context of the Anthropocene. However, I agree with Donna Haraway’s argument in “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene” that the problem with the Anthropocene isn’t the Anthropos (Greek for human) rather it is capitalism. It is capitalism that produces “double-death,” what Haraway calls “the killing of ongoingness,” for both humans and non-humans. Beneath the now-popularized notion of the Anthropocene lurks the insidious belief that humans are separate, even special, and this creates an ideological space of willful ignorance in which capitalism can flourish. In the West, in particular, I believe we live in an age that avoids reality, one in which living things are for consumption and the main “product” is death.
More specifically, my work investigates commercial design for “macro level” evidence of the paradoxes in our thinking about nature. My subjects range from reductionist commercial wallpaper designs in domestic spaces, to now-ubiquitous urban groundcover surface materials, to proposed modernist landscape designs for nuclear waste disposal sites. I believe that those kinds of examples of design are both symptomatic of and a reinforcement of our impoverished, self-interested concept of nature. Regardless of the particular source material my work draws from, I am mostly interested in the interaction I see between the “representational” and the “ideological” patterning of nature.
The Relics of the Anthropocene Temple
The Relics of the Anthropocene Temple are small dioramas of imaginary dystopian landscapes presented in “infinity boxes:” vitrines made from surveillance glass that create the illusion of an indeterminate space. Although each landscape is a discrete work, together The Relics form an installation that reveals itself as the audience’s eyes adjust to the reduction in light required by the dioramas.
The Relics combines my concern for the environment with my interest in pattern design as a metaphor for the way humanity patterns the world ideologically. The Relics presents a display in an imaginary place for reverence (and confusion) in an unknown and unknowable future world that is looking back at the cryptic “hyperobjects” left behind by our now-distant civilizations. Part science fiction, part creation of a new mythology, The Relics specifically stems from my research into an existing plan to build a massive landscape of spikes over the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site in Nevada as a kind of warning about the site to last at least 24,000 years into the future.
The Relics take on shifting forms, imagining the spikes and burnt-over forest lands of the Yucca Mountain site as simulacra of nature via miniaturized lawn ornaments and spins on classic fairytales and children’s stories. Relic II: The wood between the worlds, for example, references C.S. Lewis’ fantastical “world between worlds” in The Magician's Nephew, but distorts it into a mythological place set in the Anthropocene: a dystopian “death world” of mass extinction crafted by a late capitalist global system.
Trevor Van den Eijnden was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, and currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2005 he completed two undergraduate degrees, a BA in English literature at Dalhousie University and a BFA in photography at NSCAD University, with a highly productive exchange in his final year at L’École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. He recently completed his masters at Emily Carr University of Art + Design (MAA 2015) and currently heads the Visual Arts department at the Visual School of Art and Design Vancouver (VCADV). His work focuses on re-presentations of visual indicators of historical shifts in thinking about nature and modernist mythologies around dystopia and utopia. His highly aesthetic objects require intimate or “full body” interaction to explore evidence of the “ideological pattering” of the world by means of the “visual patterning” of nature through techniques of reduction, repetition, and human interference.
Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life, and Other Essays /. [London] :: [Phaidon].
Haraway, Donna, “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene,” September 2016, e-flux, accessed August 1, 2017. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/75/67125/tentacular-thinking-anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Sham–Real Shadows. Laser-cut MDF, embroidery thread, cu om light fixture, and you, 2015 . 55.8 x 55.8 x 55.8 cm.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Sham–Real Shadows. Laser-cut MDF, embroidery thread, custom light fixture, and you, 2015 . 55.8 x 55.8 x 55.8 cm.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, landscape of repulsion for yucca mountain (after William Morris) (digital mock-up). Black ink, black rag paper, black thumbtacks, 2015. Dimensions vary.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, this is not a place. Black ink, black rag paper, black thumbtacks, 2015. Dimensions vary. "The Temple Prints" black-on-black prints of writing, icons, or imagery speaks or alludes to the Anthropocene's potential dystopian or utopian futures. The works are meant to blend into the shadows or the walls of the exhibition space. As not everyone might see these works at first, they are positioned to reveal themselves to those who linger and allow their eyes to adjust to the reduced light levels.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Relic IV: Lawn (plasti–phoenicopteriphobia) (detail). Laser-cut MDF, surveillance Plexiglas, paper, repainted doll house lawn ornaments, ring LED lights, 2015 . 25.4 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Relic IV: Lawn (plasti–phoenicopteriphobia). Laser-cut MDF, surveillance Plexiglas, paper, repainted doll house lawn ornaments, ring LED lights, 2015 . 25.4 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Relic I: No esteemed deed; nothing of value here (detail). Laser-cut MDF, surveillance Plexiglas, wool, paper, 3D printed sculpture, fixture, LED light bulb, 2015 . 25.4 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Relic I: No esteemed deed; nothing of value here. Laser-cut MDF, surveillance Plexiglas, wool, paper, 3D printed sculpture, fixture, LED light bulb, 2015 . 25.4 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Relic II: The wood between the worlds. Laser-cut MDF, surveillance Plexiglas, paper, mirror, 3D printed sculpture, fixture, LED light bulb, 2015 . 25.4 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Relic II: The wood between the worlds. Laser-cut MDF, surveillance Plexiglas, paper, mirror, 3D printed sculpture, fixture, LED light bulb, 2015. 25.4 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm
Trevor Van den Eijnden, In the Grass 8:45. Laser-cut paper, aluminum surface, iPhone 5 Slow motion video,
. 1:00:26 hours.
Abstracting the Earth, In the Grass 08:54 works within a stylized presentation that endeavours to make evident a world in conflict with nature. This film was produced by slowing down eight minutes and fifty-four seconds of high-speed film by a factor of eleven. Stripped of sound, it presents a reverse time-lapse with the “effect of supersaturating the images with ordinarily imperceptible affective content” (pg. 102, Art and Phenomenology / Edited by Joseph D. Parry. 2011). It makes evident micro-fluctuations of the flames, the resistance and imminent collapse of the structure, the smouldering ruin that emanates heat, and the gradual transition from a space of trauma to a place of rupture – the original event occurs so quickly that we now take the presented sequential nature of it for granted. The film is meant to be melancholic, and succeeds if it teases out reflections on current and plausible possible dystopian worlds.
Trevor Van den Eijnden, Dear Miami 8:02. Laser-cut paper, wood, glue, iPhone 5 Slow motion video, presented as 3:07min on perpetual loop, 2015.
A high frame rate recording of a burning carousel horse, slowed-down and looped forward and backward, Dear Miami 8:02 is both a reference to Roísín Murphy’s song, Dear Mimai, which it samples, and a visual metaphor for being stuck in time. The work is a reference to – and inspired by – H. G. Well’s original early 20th century concept of an atomic bomb. He believed that it would be a weapon that would explode forever, thus rendering any landscape it touched inhospitable for eternity. It was this concept that inspired the Manhattan Project and the eventual development of the atomic bomb. A pop-culture inspired vulgarity in yellow and puce, this work is a bleak but garish suggestion that we are forever trapped on this carousel and that what we are as a species has done something to this Earth that cannot be undone.