Mark Dion  is an American conceptual artist who examines how ideologies influence our understanding of the natural world, history, and knowledge. By tracing the origins of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Dion questions the objectivity and authoritative role of the scientific voice. 

Dion says: „Nature does not have a voice of its own. The institutions that claim to speak for nature—natural-history museums, television documentaries, scientific journals, popular magazines, conservation organizations—all declare to represent the official story of what gets to stand for nature. But this is really a vision of nature at a particular time for a particular group of people” *

In his installations, Mark Dion utilizes manuscripts, charts, scientific instruments, and museum glass-cases to demonstrate how easily the scientific voice can be manipulated through the use of appropriate visual attributes and rhetorical techniques. 

“Anatomy of Extinction”

2020, ink and pencil on primed canvas, 224 x 92 cm

“Anatomy of Extinction” eloquently explores the relationship between humanity and the environment. Dion emphasizes modern man’s obsessive reliance on rational facts using an anatomical chart. And yet, it was the unquestioning belief in progress that led humanity down the road to disaster. 

The human skeleton at the center of the chart highlights slogans such as global warming, carbon dioxide emissions, water acidification, and others. These issues have become dominant in environmental politics and have permeated mass culture. They are ultimately the result of human errors, from which we often try to distance ourselves using hermetic concepts and terminology. 

“Chart No. 13”

2020, tusz i akryl na postarzanym papierze, 151 x 151 cm

“Chart No. 13” depicts a funeral hearse on diagram wheels illustrating the scale of CO2 emissions in different parts of the world. Mark Dion emphasizes that dry facts and carefully calculated percentages do not delay the impending end, the moment when irreversible harm is caused to the ecology. Analytical visualizations and scientific narratives about climate change are compromised because, instead of motivating action, they obscure reality and serve to manipulate public opinion. 

The artist’s reflections do not consist of empty criticism nor rejection of scientific progress. Dion notes, “I’m always suspicious of the way artists use science because science has such tremendous influence and authority in our culture.” *

Mark Dion combines elements of scientific narrative with emotional metaphors in search of an alternative language that merges the empirical with the emotional. The humor and irony that pervade his works are his primary tools for criticism. 

Text: Anna Bykova 


More about Mark Dion’s work:   

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