Augmented Geology at KARST

Review by Maia Freeman

'Augmented Geology' exhibition at KARST

‘Augmented Geology’ at KARST. Image by Rod Gonzalez

Augmented Geology, an exhibition held at KARST gallery in the downtown of Plymouth, is an exploration of the relationship between mankind, modern technology and our physical and social environment through a collection of artwork inspired by and focused around rocks and the rock cycle. Curated by Laura Köönikkä and Darja Zaitsev, this exhibition encompasses an entire range of art, from video works to sculptures to rock installations, and is hauntingly beautiful in its exploration of themes such as isolation, metamorphosis and decay.

The composition of the exhibition leads the audience on a journey through the every phase of the rock cycle and the dynamic, often severe transitions that shape geological history, beginning with Anna Estarriola’s combination of visual art and performance. Estarriola is largely interested in interactions between visual art and other disciplines such as dance, performance and technology, all of which her piece communicates, pairing a one-ton, locally sourced rock with a video installation. Her work uses the juxtaposition of fast, organised movement and dance against the uncompromising nature of a rock to explore mankind’s helplessness, finite power and futile desires to shape and conduct reality, and is impactful in the way it instils a sense of impotence and powerlessness in the observer.

Anna Estarriola. The Observer's effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed (performance for a rock)

Anna Estarriola. ‘The Observer’s effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed (performance for a rock)’. Image by Rod Gonzalez

Lola Gonzalez. 'Veridis quo', 15mins, 2016

Lola Gonzalez. ‘Veridis quo’, 15mins, 2016. Image by Rod Gonzalez

The journey through Estarriola’s piece leads us to Lola González’s video works installation, a haunting, morose exploration of mankind and our relationship with natural landscapes. With its simple, fluid visual forms and surreal, dream-like qualities, it speaks to me as an observation on the intersection of humanity and the natural world, and the similarities we can draw from the geology that surrounds us. It encourages us to look outwards, towards our natural landscape, and to question what faces us – how similar are we to the environment that we are surrounded by?

In contrast, Maggie Madden’s diverse array of collected materials prompts us to reflect on the natural landscape in conjunction with modern urbanisation and the gradual destruction of our rural environment. Her pieces, made using telephone and optical wire, are crafted into sculptural formations with geometric resemblances, sometimes barely visible. For me, they explore a very intriguing element of geology and nature, with the deconstruction of natural structures and the deliberate use of very modern materials forming a commentary on the modernisation of our natural world and mankind’s inherent need to conquer and conduct everything that surrounds us.

Maggie Madden. Left to Right: Winter Night, willow rod, telephone wire, 2016 / Untitled, painter's table, telephone wire, 2015 / Conduit, optical fibre, wood, 2014

Maggie Madden. Left to Right: Winter Night, willow rod, telephone wire, 2016 / Untitled, painter’s table, telephone wire, 2015 / Conduit, optical fibre, wood, 2014. Image by Rod Gonzalez

Nabb + Teeri. 'Thinking of Invertebrates', 3D animation, 30mins 16secs, 2017

Nabb + Teeri. ‘Thinking of Invertebrates’, 3D animation, 30mins 16secs, 2017. Image by Rod Gonzalez

Madden’s sculptural formations guide us on to Nabb + Teeri’s two pieces – a video works installation, the longest in the gallery, and a slideshow collection of imaginary geological structures drawn from observation. Their video pairs surreal, 3D forms with an unintelligible commentary and subtitles to create a pensive, ethereal piece that encourages the audience to think deeper and delve beneath the surface of what is presented to them, while the slideshow of imaginary minerals creates a narrative on capitalistic exploitation and the exhaustion of natural resources.

The final artist displayed in this exhibition is Niamh O’Malley, and the collection of her work is extensive, ranging from video installation to sculptures to mixed media illustrations. Her video piece, an examination of an Irish limestone quarry, is an exploration of mankind’s influence on our natural landscapes over time and how a quarry is a negative imprint, shaped and defined by the process of removal. It is truly captivating, made more so by the series of textured and coloured filters placed in front of the camera, on site, in order to distort and intrude upon the true image of the limestone. All her works present a calm, attentive mood, and are wonderful in the way they explore not only mankind’s effect on nature but the deconstruction and composition of geological forms themselves.

Niamh O'Malley. 'Tilted Glass', Medium beech glass and steel, 1200 x 750 x 200mm

Niamh O’Malley. ‘Tilted Glass’, Medium beech glass and steel, 1200 x 750 x 200mm. Image by Rod Gonzalez

Augmented Geology is, in my opinion, a success in achieving its purpose – the exploration of natural landscapes and modern humanity through the medium of geology and rock formations. Walking through the exhibition, you are struck by a genuine sense of isolation and solitude, whether it is from the relative silence of the room, the all-white of the gallery’s décor or from the pieces themselves, separated by their own distinct, individual artistic voices yet inexplicably knitted together by the fabric of a common theme. But despite all this, and despite all the hidden meanings and clever intricacies of each respective work, the lingering emotion taken from the exhibition is that of loneliness, seclusion and a deep, renewed reverence for the natural forms that surround us.