Curated by Kirsty Robertson and MCS4605E, artLAB, Western University, February 29-March 14, 2024

Kionywarihwaen, or Crawford Lake, is a small body of water that formed in a limestone cliff sinkhole near Milton, Ontario, just over 100km away from the Artlab Gallery. This exhibition responds to the 2023 selection of Crawford Lake by the International Commission on Stratigraphy as the "golden spike" that marks the start of a new proposed geological epoch, the Anthropocene. The lake is meromictic, meaning the layers of water within it do not mix, allowing for the preservation of sediment deposits in the lakebed. Because of this, layers of sediment lie untouched at the bottom of the lake, showing, among other things, evidence of human impact on the world in a layer of radioactive plutonium from nuclear weapons tests - the marker that has been decided represents the moment human impact becomes evident in the strata of the geologic record; that is, the Anthropocene. 

How can we understand the impact of this moment? This exhibition uses stratigraphy as an organizing principle, pulling back layers to try to understand the complicated relations involved in naming a geologic era and marking it through a lake in Ontario. Seven artists investigating water, earth, air, soil, wood, rocks, and minerals, are paired with specimens and samples loaned from collections across Southwestern Ontario. Each pairing brings an additional level of complexity to the exhibition and illustrates the ultimate challenge of trying to fully grasp an epoch in a layer of sediment. meromictic focuses on both the opportunity to learn from the siting of the golden spike, and on all that escapes from accepted forms of knowledge.

meromictic was an opportunity for students to learn about sustainable curating. All artists included in the show live and work in the Great Lakes region, reducing travel and shipping. The exhibition was curated in such a way as to create as little waste as possible. The didactic and title walls were hand-painted using Beam watercolour paints, and tombstone labels were pasted to the wall using starch/nori paste, which can be removed using water. Finally, the show made extensive use of found materials, including bicycle racks that were recycled into exhibition infrastructure, benches that were repurposed from another exhibition, and plywood that will be re-used as bookshelves in the CSC.

Featuring artworks by Kahehtoktha Janice Brant, Greg Curnoe, Simon Fuh, Stefan Herda, Lisa Hirmer, Tomonari Nishikawa, Nico Williams, Kelly Wood. 

With contributions from Biodiversity Gallery/Nina Zitani, Conservation Halton, Neal Ferris, Jessica Johnson/Smithsonian Institute, McCarthy Lab/Brock University, the Museum of Ontario Archeology, Patterson Lab/Carleton University, Corcoran Lab/UWO, the Richard W. Hutchison Geoscience Collaborative Suite/UWO, Aaron Shugar/Queen’s University, Amanda White/FOFA Gallery.

This project was made possible with support from The Strategic Priorities Fund (UWO), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Rodger Research and Development Fund, The Department of Visual Arts (UWO), and The Centre for Sustainable Curating.


photos courtesy of Dickson Bou, 2024