Durham’s “toxic post-nuclear” landscape the focus of artist-in-residence at Oshawa’s McLaughlin Gallery

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Published July 25, 2023 at 11:31 am

Exploring themes of Canada’s “toxic post-nuclear” industrial landscape will form a big part of Noah Scheinman’s work as the Artist-in-Residence at Oshawa’s Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

Scheinman, who assumed his role with the RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program June 19, will continue his ongoing research into the social and environmental impacts of nuclear power in Canada during his 15-week residency and work towards a new exhibition of sculpture and audiovisual installation

The exhibition dates for his work will be October 7 – December 3.

Scheinman is an emerging multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker with a background in architecture and design. His creative work has been presented in group contexts, and in 2020 he had a solo exhibition at Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre.

His project Tomorrow’s Geology Today (2019) was selected for the City of Kingston’s annual public art commission, bringing together his interests in infrastructure, ecology, and waste in the form a large-scale photo essay and two sculptures which investigated the region’s history of resource extraction. Scheinman was also an Emerging Artist in Residence at the Banff Centre (2020) and has participated in experimental residencies organized by the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (2021) and Artscape’s Creative Placemaking Lab in Ottawa (2020).

Before completing a Master of Visual Studies in Studio Art at the University of Toronto, he studied literature at McGill University and sculpture at the Ontario College of Art and Design. In addition to his current artistic projects, which include the production of a feature-length film about the forestry industry – Timber Limits, which explores the histories and political ecologies of forests and the timber industry in Canada – and a sculptural intervention at the site of a former municipal landfill, he is working towards a PhD in Geography at Queen’s University, where he researches the political ecologies and networked arrangements of contemporary logistics.

His work focuses on the “enduring afterlives” of the modern industrial complex as it “continues to haunt contemporary and future landscapes through legacies of contamination, colonialism, and the commodification and instrumentalization of natural worlds.”

Noah Scheinman

The work proposed for his Oshawa residency emerges from another ongoing research project, The Legacy of Matter, which engages artistic methodologies to map Canada’s post-nuclear landscape – the network of geographic sites which he believes have been “irrevocably transformed” by the extraction, processing, transportation, use, and storage of atomic materials.

“What is called ‘clean energy,’ he said, “also produces a host of damaging socio-ecological externalities that have and will continue to impact human and more-than-human worlds for generations to come.”

In residence, Scheinman will look at the particular historical conditions of Oshawa and Durham as they relate to the production of nuclear energy and its two nuclear power plants and of “the increasing obsolescence of combustion engines” from the city’s long association with General Motors, as well as questions of containment, exposure, and toxicity “when ideologies and bodies clash and mingle in unruly mixtures of earth and time.”

He said he plans to investigate such events as the Gunshot Treaty of 1789, which established the northern boundary of British control in the area using the acoustic reach of a musket shot from the shoreline, the environmental implications (past, present, future) of locating nuclear generating stations in close proximity to Lake Ontario, and the ways the nuclear regime is simultaneously visible (material and architectural) and invisible (unseen radioactivity and secretive) “and sometimes a weird hybrid/paradox of the two.”

Scheinman invites local residents “with an interest in visual art, film, ecology, energy, infrastructure, fashion, rocks, baseball, and swimming” to visit the gallery to see what he’s working on.

If you want to confirm the artist is in the studio the day of your visit, call (905) 576-3000 or email [email protected]. You can also tune in to RMG Instagram July 27 at noon for the Welcome to the Studio Artist Talk and on September 5 for a Residency Check-in.

“My project is not so much about being pro- or anti-nuclear, but rather motivated by a desire to reflect on the rich constellation of issues that attend this major development in the history of the earth,” he said. “It is a challenge to myself and others to consider the nuclear regime beyond reductive and binary arguments of, for, or against, and instead focus on how it intersects with systems of power and the long-term health of the places where it materializes.”

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