Liljana Mead Martin
Deep Thirst Bioorchestra, 2021
Fire Charred Wood, Polyurethane Resin, Fluorescent Pigments, Brass
Liljana Mead Martin is an artist based on Salt Spring Island, Tsawout First Nation and New York City, land of the Lenape People. Her artwork explores the material ecologies of deep time, land cultivation, and climate evolution primarily through sculpture and installation. She received an MFA from Emily Carr University (‘16) and completed her BFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (‘10). Her work has been shown in group exhibitions at the Nanaimo Art Gallery (Vancouver Island), CSA Space (Vancouver), ArtSpring (Salt Spring Island) and the Victoria Arts Council (Victoria). Her solo exhibition Geophilia, opened with Wil Aballe Art Projects (Vancouver) in 2021. She is the creator of BIOMASS, a platform for exhibitions and dialogues on artistic practice and energetic exchange.
In Deep Thirst BioOrchestra, artist Liljana Mead Martin imagines a new botanical species, the first returners of a fire-scorched landscape. This niche ecosystem takes on hybrid characteristics of humans and plants, as ears and other appendages amalgamate with mycelium and carnivorous pitcher plant forms. They sprout and drip out of charred branches in fluorescent colours, mimicking the electric hues of thermal gradient maps, highlighting connections between temperature and inhabitability.
Within this atmosphere, the BioOrchestra produces colour as though it were sound, suggesting excretions to attract life. As a result of their emergence from drought, their sensory based digestive systems are dehydrated and in a constant state of thirst. Conductor Cues a Blaze signals an attempt to connect with destroyed aspects of our environment. Cast in several mineral layers, a pair of hands frozen in gesture rests inside the concave hollow of a fire scorched log. This terrain of the BioOrchestra is a space where life comes forth despite the deathblows of storms, fires and droughts, but it is life altered. It’s existence relies on the ways in which it is non-human; instead of making music, the BioOrchestra listens for it.
The ideas present in Deep Thirst BioOrchestra were inspired by real events. The works were created in Vancouver during the summer of 2021, at the time when several heat waves hit the Pacific Northwest and uninhabitable levels of heat dried out a delicate northern rainforest ecosystem. It was called a 1000 year weather event, made 150 times more likely by climate change. In response to these conditions, the artist collected wood bases from dried fallen branches such as Arbutus, Bigleaf Maple and Sitka Spruce. While working on the new sculptures in the extreme heat, it became necessary to bring an infrared thermometer to the studio to assess safe working conditions. Thermal heat mapping is typically used in data visualization, however in these artworks the artist employs this glowing palette to reference temperature as an essential facet of the work.
Through a steadily expanding set of skills and processes I am interested in bringing awareness to the ground, the senses and material transformation. In the studio, I recycle organic, industrial and synthetic materials, beginning with what can be gleaned from my local environment. By creating sculptural casts of my own body, I mimic natural forms; hands become root systems, ears become mushroom clusters, feet become earth strata. These fusions between figuration, geology, plants and industry, allows me to reconnect with an intergenerational history of land cultivation and labour practices within my family. More broadly, this synthesis of materials and subjects acts to dissolve false dichotomies between humans and nature. Recently I have been applying embodied practices such as deep listening, choreographed movement and queer theory to generate new perspectives on toxicity and adaptation that defines our current moment.