Photographic transfer-type on recycled cardstock. Set of 110 monoprints.
In 1775, pharmaceutical chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele created his eponymous green pigment, which would become known for being as toxic as it was vibrant. The striking and durable colorant replaced existing green hues, and within years of its invention, was being used for paint, wallpaper, wax candles, cloth dyes, food colouring, and even children's toys. Less than a century later, Scheele’s Green fell from favour following the rising prevalence of gruesome illnesses and horrid deaths. The famed 1861 death of 19-year-old Matilda Scheueur that occurred as a result of her work of dusting artificial foliage with the poisonous pigment and the publication of Dr. Robert C. Kedzie's 1871 book on toxic wallpapers “Shadows from the Walls of Death” with its Scheele-hued cover cemented a new symbolism for the colour green—that of engineered and unmindful toxicity.
Not unlike the development of fashionable new pigments, the series of large-scale urban development projects that took place in Saint John, New Brunswick from the 1950s to 1970s are now considered by some to be a failed renaissance. Post-war mandates to modernize the port city, make it more attractive for investment, and potentially herald back a lost era of prosperity, resulted in hopeful policies, developments and redevelopments, industrial incentives, and major construction projects whose outcomes still ripple into the new century. One such attempt of urban renewal included a highway and bridge across the harbour which displaced thousands of residents, many of whom were working-class, low-income, and racialized. Some of them were moved into hastily built public housing developments in under-prioritized parts of the city. This dissonance between progress and care for citizens continues to echo today as business leaders, developers, and industrial giants tout the city’s commercial prospects amidst a worsening housing climate. The residences built in response to urban renewal now contribute significantly to the city’s disproportionately high percentage of rental housing and despite being in increasing states of disrepair they ensure themselves as monuments of how heavy-handed acts of the past have consequences that extend far into the future.
But we needn’t not look far to find the daily and unfathomably careless thought experiments in artificial intelligence; be it scammers using AI generated voices of people's daughters to perform false kidnappings or the fact that we can so easily hook up to openAI lab’s DALLE to pilfer an artists work, someone's Facebook photos, and cellphone data to create near realistic interpretations based on command prompts. These things have alarmed many creatives, ethics experiences, and even industry heads for some time now, and there seems little interest in throttling the output. Sci-fi novels and shows have always pictured AI as a helpful stooge to humanity's conquests, something that does a job that's too dangerous for things with souls or acts as some dutiful butler, K from Blade Runner, or at worst, Roko's basilisk, but it seems yet again the unintended toxicity rears its head.
Like the uninhibited issues brought by our dabbling in AI, the housing crisis within Saint John now extends to all corners of Canada and its markets preventing even those who have saved well from ever dreaming of owning a home. Furthermore, in our age of shifting climate, and when technology and capitalism are combining in increasingly dangerous ways, it is difficult to ignore the human origin of this monumental issues. Perhaps pessimistically, human endeavours, however seemingly revolutionary, productive, or strategic are fated to suffer the ill wills of good intentions. Scheele's Settlement then aims to view these misgivings through the inherent mass repetition of print media, generations utilized through AI imaging, and material usage inviting viewers to note and take heed of the cyclical nature of sociological issues, entrepreneurial endeavors, tech innovations and the reactions and responses they incite.
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