When Either But Not Both Are True explores the relationships between humanity, technology, and nature. The name itself evokes a sense of intrigue in the viewer and forces you to think deeply about the connections throughout and between our worlds.

Miruna Dragan, a Calgary-based artist originally from Romania, focuses on the impacts of nature and the impacts of technology in the context of an increasingly-socially conscious world. She analyzes the role of humanity in conjunction with the environment that surrounds and provides for us. She also places emphasis on humanity’s perception of its connections to nature, as well as the technology-focused viewpoint from which we change the Earth. While viewing her exhibit, you’ll find yourself leaning forwards and closely inspecting the distinct materials and unique textures in each and every piece.

As you first enter the gallery, the atmosphere changes drastically from the rest of the building. The colourful doors at the entrance and the bright lighting of the Kaneff Centre are in stark contrast with the dark ambience and muted colours inside the exhibition. Red, green, and blue spotlights shine down from the ceiling and produce beautiful shadows. You feel as though you are part of the artwork when you look down to see your form shadowed in a multitude of colours.

“Salt Wall” creates an immersive experience for the viewer. The wallpaper depicts a salt mine, but at a first glance, the image bears resemblance to a photograph from NASA, as the black-and-white shapes resemble the rings of Saturn. In fact, the contrasts between the earthly origins of a salt mine and the far reaches of Saturn highlights the connection between even the most distant parts of nature. If you look closely, you can also see that the image is composed of differently-sized black dots that stand out against the white background to create the picture. Are these dots part of the artwork, or simply a by-product of the printing process? Dragan’s work remains intentionally ambiguous to the viewer and encourages you to ponder about the experience long after you have left the gallery.

“The Vale of Avernus,” a photograph printed on metallic paper, utilizes the lighting in the gallery to stand out from the background. The reflections work with the polished material to create a focal point for the viewer, and without the presence of lighting, the art piece would become meaningless. Although the image depicts a cave, the use of kirigami—a Japanese style of paper art that involves cutting rather than folding like origami—attracts the viewer’s attention as their gaze travels downwards.

“In The Sage Telestic Waters, I See…” are three distinct clusters hanging from the ceiling. Dragan constructed them with molten aluminum and water beads, which expand when placed in water. She poured the aluminum over the water beads and allowed the metal to take its shape, which creates an interesting piece to admire. The clusters demonstrate that even the toughest metal can conform to the most flexible liquid. The clusters are some of the most prominent pieces, and yet are the easiest to forget due to their positioning with the rest of the exhibit.

The exhibition runs parallel to The Work of Wind: Air, Land, Sea, a larger presentation which highlights the problems created by hyper-capitalistic societies and the environmental impacts of colonialism. Both exhibits showcase the connections between human societies and the natural world upon which we build our cities and nations, while also creating a dialogue on the consequences of our actions on the environment.

Dragan’s works have been featured in museums and exhibitions throughout the world, including the Museo de la Ciudad in Queretaro, Mexico. She offers a new perspective on existing myths, symbols, and archetypes through her artwork. She emphasizes one question: how has humanity affected nature? And she uses a variety of different materials, colours, and textures to answer this question and show that the natural world is fluid and ever-changing.

For many contemporary art installations in Dragan’s work, the art feels more like an event and an experience rather than a stationary sculpture or painting. Viewers need to take the time to understand the artwork, and in doing so, the viewers become part of the artwork itself. Her exhibits evoke the same feeling as Yayoi Kusama’s interactive installations, which immerse the viewer in the process of creating art and help you understand the meaning behind her creations.

As you leave the art gallery, you face one final art piece: “Keeper,” a small black figurine near the entrance, placed near a few stacks of books. The story goes that Dragan first saw the figurine at a bookstore she frequented often, and when she met her husband, he brought her to the same bookstore to show her the same figurine. This small anecdote sums up the experience of the exhibit, demonstrating those connections between all aspects of our lives.

Miruna Dragan’s exhibit, featured at the Blackwood Gallery, runs from September 6 to December 1.

This article has been corrected.
  1. October 17, 2018 at 4 a.m.: Incorrect photographer name Yi Rong Tam was corrected to Yi Rong Tan

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