Tar Sands Skating

Given the winter weather throughout the US, it should be no surprise that I went skating. Except it wasn’t outside and it wasn’t on ice. The Corcoran Gallery of Art has a show that features a skating rink inside its rotunda. It’s a synthetic black skating rink and it was fun skating around inside it.

Once you step out you look at the blades and see a gooey tar. A volunteer takes the skates from you and wipes the black gook off the blades. You look up over the rink and see these dead tree stumps and dead ravens hanging upside down.

 

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Mia Feuer’s new project is a haunting vision of nature consumed, transformed, and twisted by human need. Inspired by the artist’s experiences in the oil-producing landscapes of the Canadian tar sands, the Arctic Circle, and the Suez Canal, An Unkindness explores the relationships between human infrastructure and the natural world.

For the past several years, Feuer has traveled around the world to places where oil is extracted from the earth and created work that responds to the social and environmental effects of that process. In 2011 and 2012, she gained restricted access to an oil production plant in the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, where she observed an ecosystem reshaped—with nightmarish logic—by desolate plains, inverted trees, and imported birds of prey. Responding to this landscape, Feuer developed An Unkindness, the title of which refers to a gathering of ravens. In the exhibition, Feuer merges imagery from the oil sands with her own experiences growing up in Canada and her research into ecological systems worldwide.

TransCanada has said that without the Keystone pipeline much of the tar sands oil will not be accessible. Looking at the decimation already wrought by the digging, can we allow more digging to happen? I’d say no, especially thinking about global warming.

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