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Mark Dion


The Life of a Dead Tree


Dion's work 'The Life of a Dead Tree' consists of a fully grown deceased tree and its documented insect inhabitants. The aim of the work was to bring attention to the natural ecosystems of Ontario by exhibiting a two-month long autopsy of the tree which viewers were able to participate in. This not only challenges the way the natural world is studied, displayed and thought about but also, as Dion states, "builds a culture of nature that features regeneration over destruction, sustainability over depletion and nurturing over domination, it requires input from a diverse collation of thinkers, makers, and doers."


Mark Dion: The Life of a Dead Tree

Roundup: An Entomological Endeavor for the Smart Museum of Art


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.”



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.


Lutsch, Genevieve. "Mark Dion: The Life of a Dead Tree." The Senses and Society 14, no. 3 (2019): 373- 377. DOI: 10.1080/17458927.2019.1661716.

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