Oswego artists explore ‘urban’

"Spatio Geographica," an exhibit by Artists Paul Bartow, an Oswego State graduate, and Oswego State Professor Rick Metzgar, is an experimental archive of human and non-human elements in North America.
The exhibit opened Sept. 11, in the Tyler Art Gallery, and runs through Oct. 18.
"Urban is redefining our notion of nature," reads a display in the exhibit. "It could be said that a new nature has emerged, one infected and affected by cultural influences."
Bartow and Metzgar said that the new landscape of the "natural" has emerged fully entangled with the human and that approximately 90 percent of the world is living matter. The artists challenged this thought in regards to "place" and "individual identity."
The exhibit was described by the artists as a collaborate practice representing the work of the "citizen researcher."
The artists explained that if urban is a "neutral" landscape, then interacting with it beyond prescriptive measures, defined by the public and private, is beyond a strictly rational perspective.
Urban samples represented in the exhibit were collected from 2007 to Sept. 2009. They were pulled from Oswego, Troy, N.Y., and regions of Texas, Quebec and Florida.
The exhibit is organized in a distinct, but formulated method. Off to the side is a map that situates the exhibit, which is designed to represent three different layers of bedrock placement.
Bartow wants his viewers to be confused as they walk through the exhibit.
"I want them to think: ‘what does this mean?’ For them to be perplexed is important because the type of engagement isn’t predetermined," Bartow said. Metzgar wants the viewers to "look closely and make connections" as to what qualities "places" have.
Their inspiration to create the exhibit was an interest in defining "urban" and developing practices and tools to "engage in it and seek it out," with both the human and non-human.
The human aspects of the artwork included natural elements, such as water, and the non-human aspects were composed of bacteria and "tools to prove the environment."
"The urban is becoming an ever-present condition," Bartow said.
Bartow said that the exhibit is, in a way, an archive and that most of the imagery used was made with viewing machines, microscopes and monitors.
"People think of themselves as singular entities," Bartow said about the message of the exhibit. "To deal with the urban condition I want them to move beyond the notion of the singular entity. There is no ‘nature is over there and we’re over here,’ it’s all entangled."
Bartow and Metzgar will host a symposium associated with their project on Oct. 9 titled "Emergent Collectives of the Human and Nonhuman."
The artists also run a blog, http://stratimentation.wordpress.com/, where projects are displayed, as well as additional work that will be coming within the next year-and-a-half.

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