BRANDON VICKERD | NORTHERN SATELLITE
Outdoor Site-specific Installation
August 14 – September 18, 2009
Artist talk and reception: Thursday, August 13, 7 PM
During his eight-week residency with the KIAC Artist in Residence Program, Vickerd produced all the components of Northern Satellite, a detailed exact-scale replica of a Lockheed Martin Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constructed entirely from birch wood.
Installed near the Dawson City dike as if it has violently crashed to earth,Satellite carries an aura of apocalyptic spectacle as well as a strong vein of sociological critique. Referencing dystopian narratives of surveillance, the militarisation of space and techno-fetishism, Vickerd’s creation also highlights our cultural reliance on gadgets, data and mapping to frame and understand our notions of landscape, place, nation and home. Northern Satellite is a highly-crafted composition that resonates with narrative and perceptual tension, a visually stunning cue to reconsider our actual relationship to the land.
This work wrestles with understanding landscape through the mediation of digital representation and simultaneously through physical experience. The GPS System is a network of 24 satellites (orbiting at 20200 km above the Earth) that constantly transmit precise microwave signals to receivers on the Earth’s surface. This system enables a GPS receiver on the Earth’s surface to determine the operator’s exact location. Regardless of whether individuals own GPS systems or not, we are inevitably aware of these massive balls of metal hurtling through the atmosphere, constantly sending and receiving information. The proliferation of GPS devices allows us to locate any point in the landscape and alternately locate ourselves in the landscape at any point in time. This is a process which demands we look at a screen and understand the representation of the landscape we inhabit as the digital model. This brings a duality to our perception of the landscape; the first lies in the physical experience of being in the place; the second is the ability to understand our location via the two dimensional representation of place that exist in the screen. This seems to be the ultimate clash between experiencing the natural world versus a manufactured experience.
Northern Satellite engages the viewer in a discourse centred on these conflicting ways we see the landscape. The work is a visual metaphor for two competing and opposing ways of understanding notions of place. The ground is the physical world that we rely on; the satellite represents technology as a mode for understanding, and the control of the physical through representation.
My studio practice is extremely varied, encompassing kinetic sculpture, site specific interventions, emerging digital technologies and a traditional object based approach to sculpture. A common uniting theme in my work is an examination of sculpture as a catalyst for critical engagement in our physical world. Whether through craftsmanship or the creation of spectacle, my goal is to provoke the viewer to question the constructed world they inhabit. The end goal of my studio practice is to draw the viewer’s attention to the assumptions we make about the reality we perceive.
I approach my research in the belief that the idea is essential to the object; material choices are secondary and are made in terms of the most successful way to express the concept. Sculpture is a language, and by mastering the applicable fabrication processes, I believe artists are capable of expanding their vocabulary, allowing for a greater articulation of the most complex ideas.
BRANDON VICKERD completed a BFA degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1998, followed by an MFA from the University of Victoria in 2001. His work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions throughout Canada. Upcoming projects includeDance of the Cranes at Nuit Blanche (Toronto) and exhibitions at the Windsor Art Gallery and Cambridge Galleries. Currently Vickerd works as an Assistant Professor in the Fine Art Department at York University.