Presented in partnership with The New Gallery
As we deplete the earth’s resources to manufacture and power consumer products, we destroy ecosystems. When such objects are deemed obsolete, these pieces of our contemporary material culture are consigned to landfills and further continue the sequence of ecological devastation.
In response to the destructive cycle of late capitalist consumer culture, Anna Gustafson began enshrouding discarded appliances in old, white linen; a manner historically used by many cultures to prepare the dead for burial. Intrigued by this ritual, the material problem solving, the physical, repetitive labour involved, and of course, the enveloped object’s transformation, Gustafson came to understand this process as a way to individuate each item, and to honour the destruction necessary to make and power them.
Beginning with nearly any small abandoned appliance she could find—in particular kitchenware, including kettles, toasters, pots, and irons—Gustafson’s focus soon shifted to encompass objects that might resonate more strongly and universally upon contemporary, common ground: consumer electronics such as remote controls, entertainment electronics, and film and slide projectors. By enshrouding these ubiquitous items, Gustafson’s work extends a broad address to those that hold the decision-making power behind the destruction of our natural world.
For this installation of Object Lessons, Gustafson includes the ubiquitous leaf blower. Once disruptors in our neighbourhoods, they now float mutely through their new context of decommissioned remote controls.
The New Gallery (TNG) is an artist-run centre located in Mohkinstsis, also known as Calgary, on the ancestral and traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta. This charitable centre for contemporary art was established in 1975 as the Clouds & Water Gallery and Visual Production Society. Currently, TNG operates the Main Space — an exhibition venue in a storefront of the historic Canton Block in Calgary Chinatown — and the Resource Centre — a combined library/archive located across from the Main Space in Ng Tower. These venues support the research, creation, and exhibition of socially relevant and politically informed creative practices from artists at all junctures of their careers, while enabling a public engagement with artist-run culture and contemporary art. TNG’s programming comprises a broad range of art and educational activities, including exhibitions, publications, residencies, offsite projects, and community collaborations that serve to invigorate audiences’ experience of contemporary art and culture.
Anna Gustafson would like to recognize that her residency at MASS MoCA, where much of this work was created, was generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.