Timur Si-Qin’s fifth solo exhibition with Société continues his ongoing endeavor to think beyond the anthropocentric dualities underlying a contemporary culture “that approaches organisms only in terms of value and doesn’t recognize them as actual living and related creatures.”1
In his book How Forests Think, the Canadian anthropologist Eduardo Kohn describes how a moment of intense anxiety separated him from his companions, and even himself, after encountering a dangerous situation on a remote South American highway. This moment of estrangement was allayed when he viewed a colorful tanager bird, which instantly dissolved his lingering anxiety by resituating him in a larger world beyond the symbolic—and beyond the human.
Reflecting Si-Qin’s abiding interest in notions of deep time, ecology, and evolution, the works in Natural Origin aim to elicit the feeling of shifting out of the symbolic and into the realm of direct experience. He transforms the gallery’s exhibition spaces into an immersive, darkened sanctuary that gradually enfolds the viewer with slow, immersive projections that cast shadows over his artworks. The experience of shadows imparts an alternative sense of space and dimensionality, blending physical experience with ocular patterns and mental images. Si-Qin likens the experience of shadows to how he visualizes the places that he’s been and how their memories interact with one another: how one environment, like a jungle in Puerto Vallarta, connects to another like the yellow birch forests of the Lake Champlain region, casting and connecting their shapes and outlines on one another, weightlessly and multidimensionally.
Most of the works in Natural Origin are created from the simulation of the Temperate Deciduous Forest eco-region of Upstate New York and Vermont. While having supported our species for over 50 thousand years, Temperate Deciduous Forests evolved over the past 30 million years and are some of the oldest biocommunities living in the world. Their increasing vulnerability to the climate crisis make temperate forests symbolic of the challenges and metamorphoses undergone by the living world. The wall works derive from renderings of a digital ecosystem that Si-Qin has created, a virtual world that digitally recreates specific places in the Adirondacks and the Lake Champlain region and their specific species of plants and rocks. For the artist, the interest lies not in notions of the uncanny, artificial life, or the digitization of nature, but rather understands it as a devotional and meditative endeavor, a method by which one is compelled to see into the richness of nature at ever greater depths. “Life on this planet stands at the cusp of a great threshold,” Si-Qin writes in his manifesto A New Protocol, “As we awaken for the first time to the full scale of the territory of space and time—something any living thing has only known for a century—we awaken also to our own capacities for altering our planet and ourselves.” Si-Qin’s exhibition at Société seeks to articulate alternative conceptual and visual frameworks to foster a reengineering of our relationship with the planet, enabling us, as Kohn writes, to “snap back into the world of life.”
1 An interview with Timur Si-Qin by Anneleen van Kuyck, Beaufort 21: https://www.beaufort21.be/en/fundaments/interview-timur-si-qin-an-neleen-van-kuyck