Emily Jan : The World Is Bound By Secret Knots
Text by Emily Jan and Marie-Hélène Lemaire
The World is Bound by Secret Knots is an installation that grew out of Emily Jan’s encounter with the biodiversity of equatorial South America and, over time, developed into a meditation on the complexity and fragility of tropical ecosystems.
The exhibition title is a reference to the 17th century polymath Athanasius Kircher The Magnetic Kingdom of Nature, considered “the phoenix of the scientists”. As once expressed by the Museum of Jurassic Technology: “Ultimately, Kircher saw magnetic attraction and repulsion as the lingua franca of all creation, governing friendship, love, sympathy, hatred, chemical reactions, planetary action, heliotropic and selenotropic, plants, medicinal plants and stones, the wind, hydraulics, the tides, musical harmony; even the nature of God himself, whom Kircher deemed ‘the Central Magnet of the Universe’. As Science verges on a workable unified field theory, Kircher’s intuitive philosophical understanding of the interdependency of all things seems less and less naïve.”
Both natural history and invention, Emily Jan’s bestiary of hybrid beings addresses the ontological blur which occurs between plant/animal/fungus, the temporal blur between living/dying/regenerating, and the shifting boundaries between Self and Other by combining species and objects in hallucinatory and oneiric ways. The delicate and deep beauty of this flora and fauna fills our eyes and lungs with rich colours, with such intensity, that it both feeds and grabs our breath. By creating this cabinet of curiosity for our times, Jan invites us to engage in a sensual philosophy to reflect on the future of our world.
A Bird of Paradise (Apologue II) comes to meet us. Its delicate, lapis lazuli blue claws are landing on a branch. Lapis lazuli, crystalline stone of the sea, the sky, and ancient spirits. This bird invites us into an alternative paradise: not that of a distant, remote and abstract God, but rather a paradise that is there, close to us, with its magnificent materials, textures, resonances and colours. It manifests itself in the flap of a wing made out of artificial leaves; in the meandering of a snake gliding over the bark; in a bouquet of tulips and peaches, the fleece of an anteater; and in the orange gaze of an octopus at teatime.
Emily Jan is an artist and writer currently based in Montreal. Born and raised in California, she has lived and travelled in thirty-five countries and lived in four, including South Africa and Mexico. As a wanderer, naturalist, and collector of objects and experiences, she is guided in her work by the spirit of exploration, kinship, and curiosity.
Text co-written by Emily Jan and Marie-Hélène Lemaire, Ph.D., based on original texts published in conjunction with the exhibition The World is Bound by Secret Knots at the ODD Gallery of the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture in Dawson, Yukon, from June 28 to July 31, 2018.