Whitewash, definition: To try to stop people from discovering the true facts about something, in order to prevent someone in authority from being criticized. (1)
Rendered in tar (a byproduct of the petroleum industry) and framed in old-growth Douglas Fir or cedar (an atmospheric purifying carbon sink), these works discuss the effects of global climate change on species in a final bid for relevance. Using oil as both metaphor and medium, these tar depictions of endangered species bleed through water-based white paint, leaving ghostly images that cannot be completely covered or hidden.
Temperate rainforests have silently fought against CO2 buildup for millennia. Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar are therefore an appropriate material in which to swaddle each specimen. Through the excessive deforestation of these large conifers in combination with the burning of fossil fuels, iconic species such as the polar bear, the ringed seal and the salmon may be living their last moments on our planet.
Accompanying each specimen are pairs of DNA barcodes or truncated DNA sequences, a recent development used by biologists to identify and quantify biodiversity on our planet.
This iteration of Whitewashed is literally and figuratively about blocks of time. The juxtaposition of an 800 year-old Douglas fir and the DNA record of late Pleistocene megafauna, harbors a history of man’s interaction with nature.
During the late Pleistocene, as unenlightened stone-blade wielding primitives, we slashed our way through the Americas with nothing on our mind but survival. In our wake, much more than mammoths were lost forever: two species lion, three bears, camels, tapirs, giant and medium size ground sloths, glyptodonts, gomphotheres, and others.
With the last millennium came the age of enlightenment, an attempt to understand the natural world and humankind's place in it solely on the basis of reason and apart from religion--an intellectual movement. Yet, with the power of our exploration, we exterminated species like the Passenger Pigeon, Labrador Duck, Eskimo Curlew, and the Great Auk, extinguishing in our wake these tragic icons of seemingly inexhaustible natural resources.
I asked tropical ecologist Dr. Daniel Janzen: “As man’s relationship with nature elicits similar outcomes over time--the echoes between the mind set of stone-age man, through Manifest destiny, to twenty-first century man--must we speculate whether some behaviors are not hard-wired into our species?”
Janzen replied: “...With respect to your hard wired "speculation", stop speculating. OF COURSE huge amounts of our behavior (and everything else about us) is genetically hard wired. And even where a portion of us is born with a clean hard disc (many pieces, more or less) those hard discs are of hardwired sizes, locations, abilities, etc. and the same for the applications that come loaded with them. A concrete example is the eyes of things you dance around....”
“P.S. Your eyes fix on eyes from birth and still do, no programming required. For obvious evolutionary reasons. If they did not, you are dead, for 6 million+ years if not 100 million years, unless you think that the mammals that made it through the meteor extinctions 65 m years ago had no eyes. Eyes are everything, and especially for a species that cannot smell, taste or hear,” emphasized Dr. Janzen.
I’m moved to make things about animals and their plight, because they cannot speak for themselves, and their fight for survival is often misunderstood as a direct threat to Man. Please try to see what is hidden beneath the clean white coating, the Whitewash, of these works. Their purpose is to change how we treat nature and each other.
Gratefully, Joseph Rossano