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Ecologies: Mark Dion, Peter Fend, Dan Peterman


The book 'Ecologies' is a documentation of the project/exhibition that Mark Dion, Peter Fend and Dan Peterman were commissioned to be a part of. The aim of the project was to create three projects that evoke the varied scales at which human actions affect our surroundings. The exhibition establishes visual links between ‘urban’ and ‘natural’ ecologies, highlighting the fact that the two have evolved into separate entities, despite one having derived from the other.


In Dion’s project for 'Ecologies', the element of nature (the documented insect life) has very much been presented within an urban environment - meticulously arranged in a grid formation within the white cube walls of a gallery. This invokes a sense of displacement, as if the ‘nature’ has been removed from its natural ecology, despite the fact that it was being exhibited in the very ecology from which it came. “By shifting our focus we can be reminded that we are inalienably part of an ecology - we are constructed by and construct the world around us.”


This is an intriguing way of blending the 'urban' and the 'natural', an approach that I may experiment with within my own work to reframe my own ideas of ecologies and the interactions that occur between them.

Mark Dion: Roundup

Relevant notes from 'Ecologies':

  • Ecology: "the relationship between organisms and their surroundings, and the study of such relationships" pg 24

  • Commissioned to create three projects to evoke the varied scales at which human actions affect our surroundings. Pg 24

  • Another kind of ecology – the relationship between artists and institutions. Pg 24

  • "work both within and beyond the confines of the art worls and draw energy from the interplay among the various aspects of their endeavors." Pg 26

  • Mutualism – two organisms coexisting for mutual benefit. Pg 29

  • "by shifting our focus we can be reminded that we are inalienably part of an ecology – we are constructed by and construct the world around us." Pg 35

  • By enhancing our 'limited vision' through the advancement of optics in botany, geology, zoology and medicine, we have attempted to bring ourselves to a better understanding of nature. Ironically this also emphasizes our separation from it. Pg 35

  • "the human struggle to represent the natural world has been the problem of making the invisible visible." Pg 35

  • Mark Dions project addresses the humans 'culture filter' and belief that we are separate from nature – shifting our focus. Proving that life can be found where one least expects it, and animal presence is a reminder of the limits of human influence and control.

  • Blurring distinctions between nature/outside and culture/inside pg 48


Dion, Mark, Stephanie Smith, Peter Fend, Dan Peterman, and David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art. Ecologies: Mark Dion, Peter Fend, Dan Peterman. Chicago: University of Chicago David & Alfred, 2001.

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