“Travel was once a means of being elsewhere, or of being nowhere. Today it is the only way we have of feeling that we are somewhere. At home, surrounded by information, by screens, I am no longer anywhere, but rather everywhere in the world at once, in the midst of a universal banality — a banality that is the same in every country. To arrive in a new city, or in a new language, is suddenly to find oneself here and nowhere else. The body rediscovers how to look. Delivered from images, it rediscovers the imagination.”
— Jean Baudrillard, The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena
“I learned of John Ryan Brubaker’s work through a mutual friend, Emma Fisher, Tamarack Artisan Foundation’s program director. Before I even saw the work, I was taken by the process of the work. More and more these days, I’m interested in how work is made and after learning that John Ryan used acid mine drainage …”
On Confluence ~ Walks down the North Fork
The North Fork Blackwater River runs past Thomas, West Virginia before joining the Blackwater proper in the canyon downstream. Thomas developed as a coal town in the early 20th Century, but as the mines were abandoned they filled with water which continues to drain into the river today. The mine void currently covers 1100 acres and discharges an average of two million gallons of water per day into the North Fork. The drainage has a pH in the 3.0 – 5.0 range and contains heavy concentrations of dissolved iron and aluminum. This water dissolves heavy metals and creates acid mine drainage, which is detrimental to river ecosystems, rendering them generally unfit for life, recreation or consumption.
The images in this project were shot during a number of walks in and around the North Fork. As most of the river is difficult to access the process required walking through the riverbed directly. The prints were made using an iron-based photographic process called the Van Dyke Print. This process uses acidic water as its developing agent, making the contaminated portions of the North Fork an ideal location for creating prints. The works in this exhibition were processed directly in river water effected by acid mine drainage and have absorbed traces of the same heavy metals and mine runoff as the North Fork Watershed itself.
“As artists and designers, we know something about the language and idioms of seeing. Now, because of networked systems and ubiquitous capture, perception and representation are changing faster than ever before. For the artists, designers, and culture operators who work with technology – especially imaging and information technologies – our job, or jobs, are clear.
We may work to predict the cultural consequences of new technologies, warning us of dangerous futures, or speculating about interesting ones.
We may author whimsical, provocative and illogical tools that liberate minds, connect hearts, creatively invert authority, and empower skeptical thought.
Using artistic techniques like defamiliarization, we may awaken others from their slumber to see common things in an unfamiliar way, in order to enhance perception of the familiar.
Using the artistic techniques of visualization, we can delineate the unseen forces that shape our lives, in order to reveal the invisible.
Above all, we are obliged to take a ‘seat at the table’ to help set – and not simply be victim to – technological agendas.”