Challenged by technology

The Yukon Arts Centre opened two new exhibitions on Sept. 5. One showcases the work of Advanced Artist Award recipient Lillian Loponen, who visited Finland to create an experiential interpretation of that country’s national epic folklore tale, Kalevala. The story is the Finnish cornerstone of its people.

The other show is Leslie Leong’s Ubiquitous, which seeks to provoke thought and discussion around technological advancement and the impact on human society and our environment. Leong’s exhibit proposes that digital technology has altered, and will continue to alter our society, our environment, and ourselves, both externally and internally; becoming an omnipresent part of our lives.The idea came to Leong over the past few years, as she coped with the never-ending wheel of life.

“The concept came about as a result of feeling overwhelmed with a never-ending to-do list, always with multiple urgencies,” she said in an email. “This was probably around about 2012 or 2013. I began to ponder how my life became like this. Life wasn’t always that way. That’s when I realized that technology, that was supposed to make life easier, had actually done the opposite. Because expectations from society; work places, clients, family, etc., and my own expectations, had increased accordingly because I could do things faster.”

And while the treadmill of better, faster, stronger achievement might not kill us, Leong suggests that this technology-driven motto inspired her 2014 art exhibit, Insidious. (Ed. note: feature in WUY April 17, 2014.) But her need to explore the impacts of technology weren’t satisfied with that 2014 exhibit.

“With this exhibit, I felt I was not finished with the theme, but I have recognized that the technological path we are on is our human path,” Leong said. “There’s no sense in going into denial. It is better to be proactive and make digital technology serve human society and our environment than to continue to be (reactively) addressing problems as they arise.”

The art is a mixed-media exhibition, incorporating re-purposed technological components into the design. Pieces include titles like Pandora’s Box, Mesmerize, Dopamine, e-Scapes, e-Clipse, and DNA, reflecting the dualized nature of digital technology and alluding to a cautionary path.

“Lots of circuit boards and other internal parts from computers and servers,” Leong said when asked about the components. “Those are mixed with organic, weather-worn reclaimed wood and historic human-made wood products to bring history and the environment into the conversation of technology, rather than leaving those behind.

“Only ceramics figures, glue and some screws were not recycled/reclaimed.”

Sourcing all that defunct hardware required some partners and Leong found them with Computers for Schools Yukon (CSFY). She calls them her “Supplier.”

“I have to go in there to get my fix every now and then,” Leong laughed. “Anyway, they take computers and pull parts that they can reassemble into computers for schools and non-profits. Then they recycle the rest, so I go in and interrupt the waste stream and pull things from the reject materials before it goes to recycling.”

Her interruptions in that repurposing cycle have drawn some chuckles around the offices. Her art has been a wrecking-crew on the technology.

“We joke about how they make new useful computers and I just wreck them!” she said. “I can be heard spending hours smashing the bits off motherboards with a big chisel and hammer. 

“In the past I have been overwhelmed by too many people dropping of computers for me. It is a very nice thought, but I don’t take them anymore. This just shows how quickly our technology becomes waste!”

Leong and Loponen can be seen at the Yukon Arts Centre now through to Nov. 22. There will be an artist talk and discussion in October. For more details on exhibit viewing times, the talks, or Yukon Arts Centre galleries, visit

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