Susan Turcot presents a series of charcoal drawings and a new sculptural work that address the human and environmental impact of the unbridled exploitation of the Alberta oil sands. Turcot’s one-on-one exchanges with workers in the camps while she was drawing their portraits allowed her to grasp their loneliness and the isolation often present in their lives, despite the healthy pay cheque at the end of their shifts. Her drawings depict desolate landscapes overlaid with spectral figures, architectural structures and heavy equipment, expressing the tension between our insatiable need for natural resources and its consequences on local ecosystems.
Automobility, Turcot’s new work developed for BNLMTL 2014, large tree-like sculpture with dozens of used mud-coated tires threaded onto its branches conveys the troubled relation between this place and displacement and, by extension, between rootedness and global flows. The employment conditions and the vulnerability of the workers, who often come from far away, are paralleled with the fragility of the landscape, which such extraction, once completed, abandons to toxicity. The heightened materiality of both the drawings and the sculpture implies the artist’s own engagement in these issues, and seeks to provoke in the viewers a reflection on their own position and responsibilities.