CHRIS DONOVAN // PARTICULATE

Installation Info

PARTICULATE is a video work that takes a contemplative look at the unremarkable violence that exists on the periphery of our lives. The piece is part of a larger body of work called “The Cloud Factory”, which visually examines the Irving supremacy over Saint John and the system of environmental classism which allows this monopolization to thrive.

Viewers are confronted with scenes that seem normal at first glance, but are invited to contemplate the slow and mundane violence that surrounds us every day as residents of an industrialized city. The title asks viewers to consider the very nature of the industrial clouds depicted in the work. These billowing man-made clouds seem innocuous to some, but they in fact contain small and harmful particulate matter that settles on houses, cars, in lungs, and all over this city, which is sandwiched between two particulate-producing factories. 

This non-dramatic assault is what environmental scholar Rob Nixon refers to as “slow violence.” The omnipresent threat of prolonged exposure to environmental toxins that accumulate in the body is rarely portrayed in mass media until it culminates in something more dramatic, such as a visible disease that results from this exposure. Nixon writes: “Chemical and radiological violence, for example, is driven inward, somatized into cellular dramas of mutation that— particularly in the bodies of the poor—remain largely unobserved, undiagnosed, and untreated. From a narrative perspective, such invisible, mutagenic theatre is slow-paced and open-ended, eluding the tidy closure, the containment, imposed by the visual orthodoxies of victory and defeat.” This work embraces a mundane narrative rather than attempting to dramatize the everyday, thereby confronting the viewer with a prolonged look at the slow violence that many prefer to look away from.

 

Bio

Chris Donovan (he/him) is a lens-based artist of Acadian and Irish descent based in Saint John, New Brunswick (Wolastokuk). His work focuses on the complex intersections of community and industry. Influenced by his industrialized hometown of Saint John, he explores issues of identity and the socio-economic structures of industrial capitalism. His work has appeared in solo exhibitions across Canada and group shows in more than 40 countries including at the National Gallery of Canada, Ryerson Image Centre, Canadian War Museum, Romanian National Museum of Art, and the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum. He holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Toronto Metropolitan University.