British installation artist Simon Starling has an upcoming exhibition at Toronto’s Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery opening March 1, 2008. The Power Plant commissioned the 2005 Turner Prize winner for a site-specific piece based on Henry Moore’s 1954 bronze, Warrior with Shield. Moore had a close but controversial relationship with the city of Toronto, having several sculptures placed throughout the city. Canadians became resistant to this public support of a foreign artist.
For the commissioned piece, Starling submerged a replica of Moore’s sculpture in Lake Ontario in 2006, providing a host for the invasive Zebra mussels native to the Black Sea. This species was accidentally introduced to the Great Lakes in 1988 by boat, the same way Moore’s sculpture arrived in Canada. They have since proliferated, stimulating the ecosystem by flushing out pollutants and diminishing the population of the native species, thus becoming controversial themselves. The replica will be extracted and the shells of the mussels will remain, resulting in the central piece of the show, Infestation Piece (Musseled Moore). Starling uses the metaphoric mollusk to point to the tension between regionalism and globalism, both environmentally and artistically. The parallel between Moore’s artistic “invasion” of the city and the mussels’ biological invasion of the Great Lakes has both international significance and local relevance. Nine other works by the artist, all created in the past five years will accompany Infestation Piece.
Starling attended the Glasgow School of Art and had his first solo exhibition in 1995 at The Showroom in London. He has also shown at London’s Camden Art Centre. Starling’s interest in how human history affects the natural world pervades his work. By taking an existing artwork and altering it, the artist makes the audience aware of the greater social and historical contexts of a particular piece. The elegance and simplicity of his message, despite the complexities of its execution, allow the viewer to perceive the interconnectedness of nature, geography, society, and art.