Małgorzata Stankiewicz Lassen (This Is An Emergency)

Street-level sites throughout Toronto
College St at Spadina Ave
Jul 12–25,  2021
    Małgorzata Stankiewicz, Untitled (Arctic Permafrost Thawing 70 Years Sooner Than Predicted), 2018–21. Courtesy of the artist

Reflecting on strategies of how to process the inundation of information and images circulating today about the climate crisis, Zurich-based Polish artist Małgorzata Stankiewicz raises questions about the impact and role of mass media. Presenting a selection of six images with overlaid text from her series Lassen (2018) as large-scale posters throughout Toronto’s streets, she offers a meditation on the photographic depiction of landscape in the Anthropocene—an era of accelerated environmental change.

Translated from German, “lassen” means “to let” or “to allow”; similarly, Stankiewicz allows process and experimentation to guide her practice, creating work that is both intuitive and enlightening. Her disorienting landscapes are based on images of mountainsides, rock crevices, trees, and soil-eroded riverbeds. Using new and old, often expired, film and photographic paper, she works in a colour darkroom to create large-scale chromogenic prints by assembling small sheets to form grid patterns. From this myriad selection of film and paper, varied and unexpected prints emerge, which are abstract and often fragmented. Sublime environments are created with flares of hot red, hues of otherworldly pink and pale yellow, or deep midnight blue. The images appear to be burning or melting, unstable and continuously transforming, not unlike the landscapes they depict.

Contextualizing the images, Stankiewicz mined countless climate news articles from around the world to select compelling statements that function as titles of the works. For this iteration of Lassen, Stankiewicz has changed the titles of her images and overlaid text on them, drawing on current Canadian news stories to establish geographically specific connections. For instance, Untitled (Climate Change Effects People Differently) and Untitled (The Seasonal Availability of Freshwater Is Changing) (2018–21) call to mind the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and their steadfast fight against the natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia.

Mimicking a guerilla advertising campaign, Stankiewicz’s project maps its way through Toronto, expanding upon the work’s function as art-based activism and protest. The large-scale images seen at street level are presented in conjunction with an online archive of the complete series of images, accompanied by a list of titles’ source news articles and climate reports. Lassen is a timely depiction about looking and thinking through humanity’s role in influencing the present state of the planet. However varied perspectives and opinions may be globally and within Canada, Lassen touches on a collective discontent and unease about the future. “Eco-anxiety,” a recently developed term, refers to a chronic fear of environmental doom; many people feel overwhelming pressure and urgency to make sense of the global ecological crisis. Stankiewicz’s images are hauntingly beautiful in their abstract forms, as they convey a poetic yet urgent call to action.

The accompanying online archive can be found here.

Curated by Tara Smith