The past and future worlds of Samantha Rees
Natural science produces ancestral statements, such as, for example, that the universe is roughly 13.7 billion years old, that the earth formed roughly 4.5 billion year ago, that life developed on earth approximately 3.5 billion years ago, and that the earliest ancestors of the genus Homo emerged about 2 million years ago.46 Yet it is also generating an ever increasing number of ‘descendent’ statements, such as that the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda galaxy in 3 billion years, that the earth will be incinerated by the sun 4 billions years hence, that all the stars in the universe will stop shining in 100 trillion years, and that eventually, one trillion, trillion, trillion years fromnow, all matter in the cosmos will disintegrate into unbound elementary particles.
Ray Braisser, Nihil Unbound, 2007
Statements such as the above, which have become central to a new wave in science based philosophy, serve to question the very bases upon which the human sees itself. For it can be proven that not only was there a time long before cellular existence, but that, further there will be a definite calculable end to the Universe, long after the passing of cellular beings. In this light, the commonly held perception that existence as we know it revolves around the ability for human subjects to perceive external objective phenomena is exposed as shallow wishful thinking. Humans are just not that important to existence as such. The job of the philosopher arguably then becomes the communication of the irrelevance of human life to wider existence, and even of the irrelevance of humanity as such. From thereon a brave new future can be forged in which humanity will be surpassed in the name of progress.
As well founded as this argument arguably is, it does present social hazards. For if human life is stripped of any privileged 'meaning' the human becomes a mere random conglomerate of cellular interactions wedged between two vast expanses of empty time and space that exist prior to and after human existence. The human subject, as Ray Brassier argues, becomes 'extinct' even before its actual and certain demise. This then rids humans of the obligation to behave ethically towards one another. The only rational recourse becomes to serve one's own interests above all others.
If the philosopher is obligated to speed humanity's acceptance of these cold and hard facts, the religious leader is obligated to provide spiritual solace, the political leader to ensure stability for populations stripped of any meaningful significance, and the scientist to record raw data, the artist is unique, because the artist needn't heed these worrying facts at all. Or rather, because art is dependent on deception – as, for example, the painted landscape falls away on close inspection to reveal the raw materials of its composition – it is able to sustain the notion that we are meaningless beings bound for extinction, and to overstep it in a way that cannot be dismissed by science. Art can conceive of alternative realities which have no basis in fact, without compromising itself.
The sci-fi landscape genre – such as the works of Samantha Rees – is particularly suited to the confrontation of a fantastical subjective reality to the objective discovery of science. In this way science meets fiction, as speculative inquiry presents future and past worlds as if they were visible for the viewer today. A time anterior to our own becomes ours as if declared as an artistic readymade, documented by Rees in light of the fact that we have nothing concrete to look at in reality. In so doing a reality resistant to the subject is bought into the human orbit. Whilst these forms are on the whole easily recognisable as geographical figures, plant life, buildings and spacecraft, they present a departure from the familiar world we inhabit, as painterly gestures render sometimes disturbing scenarios utilising a macabre gothic palette. Yet, all the same, the scale and nature of Rees's work is very much human, turned towards the viewing subject, who may claim for themselves these ulterior universes.
excerpt from text written by Mike Watson
1972 born in Canada
Lives and works in Den Haag, Netherlands
University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honors) Major in Painting 1995
Unviersity of Tennessee, Knoxville TN,
Master of Fine Arts ( Major in painting and drawing 2001)
Asterides, Marseille France 2008-2009 six months
Art Lab, Berlin, Germany, 2007-2008 (six months)
Haagweg 4, Leiden, the Netherlands 2001-2002 (Three months)
2007 National funds for the arts, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2004 CBK (Center for visual arts Rotterdam project grant)
Shame , Error One Piano Fabriek, Brussels, Belgium
Re -Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Re -Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Time Trade, Stroom, Den Haag, The Netherlands
Meet the Pilot,Spinnerai, Leipzig, Germany
Hellbaard, Hasselt, Belgie (group exhibition)
We dont live here anymore (solo exhibition)
Jan Huijens Gallerie, Den Haag, The Netherlands
"The Art of Speculation" (group exhibition)
Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany,
Drawn by Utopia(group exhibition )
Pictura, Dordrecht, The Netherlands
Convoi Exceptional (solo exhibtion)
Friche la Belle de Mai Gallery, Marseille, France