Perforating the walls to let nature in

Marten Berkman, and his collaborator and daughter, Willow Berkman, pose in front of a portion of their new work, Remote Sensibility IX. Ken Anderson, Leslie Leong, and Jayden Soroka also collaborated on the piece recently installed at NorthLight Innovation Centre

When NorthLight Innovation Centre put out a call for proposals for art to amplify the space, Marten Berkman saw it as the perfect opportunity to celebrate the natural world, community, entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation and the intricate web of connections between all of these vital elements to life in the Yukon.

“I wanted the piece I proposed to be in line with the natural world and our connection to it,” Berkman said. “Especially because it would be housed in an innovation space with a strong focus on technology, so it felt important to bring the natural world into that environment and remind everyone of the fundamental link between what is happening within the building and the world outside.”

In order to do this, Berkman brought together a group of artists to collaborate and create the finished in-situ work. Ken Anderson, Leslie Leong, Jayden Soroka and Willow Berkman joined Berkman in the creation of Remote Sensibility IX, a three-dimensional photo installation Berkman describes as “virtual perforations in the wall that bring the outside world into the space, highlighting the fact that the boundaries we see are of our own creation.”

The installation is made up of imagery, created by the collaborators, photographed by Berkman and composited together into the finished product.

Ken Anderson’s contribution to the work is his carved masks.

“It was important to me to feature Ken’s work in this collaborative piece,” said Berkman. “Since the work was being installed in a space that celebrates innovation, it was necessary to recognize the innovation of the First Nations, an ancient tradition of craft and engineering with hands that goes back thousands of years.”

Leslie Leong’s work bridges the natural and technological worlds by creating forests out of circuit boards.

“The inclusion of Leslie’s work really spoke to the need for technology to acknowledge the web of life,” said Berkman.

Jayden Soroka worked in a digital medium for his portion of the piece, but drew inspiration from the natural world, mimicking and digitally replicating algorithms found in nature.

Willow Berkman, Marten’s daughter, modelled for the piece. “Willow represents the digital native for me in the collaboration,” said Berkman. “Despite her comfort in the digital world, she has her feet firmly rooted in the exploration of the natural analogue world. This balance really speaks to the need to not let technology orphan us.”

Beyond photographing his collaborators’ contributions, Berkman also photographed a number of natural elements that found inclusion in the work. He highlights the wasp nest and the caribou lichen that are part of the imagery.

“The wasp nest is a humbling indication of design and ingenuity that predates humanity by millions of years,” he said. “While the caribou lichen is this incredibly resilient life form that ties people, caribou, the substrate and the atmosphere all together.”

The work of compositing all of the elements together had to be done with a strong intention and careful attention to detail. “I had to be conscious of the inter-ocular scale when bringing the pieces together to make sure they made sense in the space together.”

It was important for this work to be tied directly to the space where is would ultimately live so that everything could be designed to be viewed from the constraints posed by the room. The space means the piece has to be viewed from below and off-perpendicular. Berkman said the finished piece was only possible because NorthLight let the collaborators create the work to fit a specific space, which he said is a rare gift for a visual artist.

Reflecting on the finished work, Berkman appreciates how the art breaks up the hard, physical space. He hopes that by bringing the natural world physically into the space, it will serve as inspiration and a poignant reminder of the greater web of life from which innovation is born and must work within.

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