Jennifer Rose Sciarrino: Thrummer

November 17, 2016 - January 14, 2017

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Despite criticism that suggests she bypasses technology in her writing, Ursula K. Le Guin has become an acclaimed science-fiction writer. In response to implications that she is ‘soft’, or less of a science-fiction writer than her peers, Le Guin composed, A Rant About Technology, where she asserts that it is not that she avoids technology, but rather, her critics do not see technology as being anything beyond the complex production of a computer or set of automatic doors. Le Guin maintains that “technology is the active human interface with the material world.” Put differently, the production of something that did not exist in the world before, be it preparing food, constructing a pair of shoes or making a fire, is technological. Central to Le Guin’s writings is her fascination with plant and bodily matters. This interest that is shared by Jennifer Rose Sciarrino, ultimately informs the Toronto-based artist’s newest body of work featured in for her exhibition, Thrummer.

Since her last solo exhibition, Sciarrino has readjusted her lens, approaching human and plant biological matter microscopically. Through her own processes of art-making— hand- blown glass sculpture, animation and floor-drawing—Sciarrino has magnified the nearly invisible elements that comprise living forms, translating them into objects and actions that can be sensed more freely, and thus, interpreted poetically. Occupying the gallery’s crevices, peripheries, and higher and lower planes are two and three dimensional augmentations—mostly through scale and material— of a living organism’s inner-workings.

Underlying the artist’s new work is an awareness connected to the experimentation being performed on living organisms. In botany, as an example, artificial cross pollination used in agriculture is intensifying in response to the loss of biodiversity, the result of rapid human population growth. Since the beginning of her career, Sciarrino has been intrigued by the human desire to replicate, reform and refine the natural via processes and mechanisms that are un-natural.

Drifting along the gallery’s edges is a series of transparent hand blown glass ellipsoid shapes, based on a microscopic view of pollen grains. Sciarrino’s interest is captured by a pollen grain’s structure and its function as bearer and protector of reproductive data. By way of insects, birds and the wind, these protective pockets of information are transferred to a plant’s reproductive system, giving rise to flowering. Extending Sciarrino’s hypothetical thinking, (as well as the speculative quality of science-fiction), that has led to such works as, Cloak: Staircase (2015), the artist has re-imagined her pollen grains as possessing the potential to flower into hybrid plants.

Re-scaling the pollen grains and representing them through glass also simulates the simulation processes applied to enhance natural life. Sciarrino’s artistic methods, however, accentuate the pollen’s function as a delicate vessel that, much like a vase, keeps a substance that awakens and sustains flowering for as long as possible. Sciarrino’s material choice for these sculptures lends to the exhibition a kind of lightness, as if these objects found their way to the gallery by air.

Suspended from the gallery’s ceiling is a three-part video installation of nylon fishing line, contracting and releasing to the rhythm of the artist’s recorded breath. No stranger to digital rendering programs, Sciarrino replicates fishing line into digital form, spanning three different perspectives. The moving images are human scale, making viewers increasingly aware of their own bodies and breathing —speeding up and slowing down. The animated renderings recall microscopic views of human muscle tissue. This resemblance is not a coincidence. As Sciarrino puts it, “The simple technology of what muscle refers to is the DIY alteration of nylon fishing wire that is spun and woven to create an artificial brawn that is strong and robust.” Integral to this work is Sciarrino’s observation of muscle memory: the ability to consciously or unconsciously slip back into a bodily action as a result of rigorous, physical repetition. In the case of her triptych, the animated fishing wire (or is it muscle tissue?) is training to achieve an aesthetic experience for the viewer, dictated by a natural breathing sequence.

Applying chalk to the gallery’s floor, Sciarrino has drawn large-scale images of the human gut, the location in the body from which emotions stem— fear, excitement, joy, surprise and sadness. Lining the gut are microbiota, tiny micro-organisms with whom we share our body space. If something internalized by the body disrupts the microbiota, our emotional states shift for better or worse. As a means of reinstating stasis and good health, an intake of probiotics is necessary. Sciarrino is attracted to this simple, barely visible technology, animating its process through a playful and childish pass time that is familiar to most people. Over the course of the exhibition, the chalk drawings will rub away with each visitor, becoming increasingly abstract and eventually disappearing into chalk dust, disappearing into air…

-Rui Mateus Amaral


Jennifer Rose Sciarrino would like to thank Daniel Barber for his technical assistance in the animation of Muscle Memory, Danielle Greer, Aamna Muzaffar, Jacob Whibley, Alex Durlak, Custom Colour Imaging, Tsunami Glassworks, Rui Mateus Amaral, Dory Smith and Daniel Faria. Sciarrino would also like to thank Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.


Jennifer Rose Sciarrino lives and works in Toronto, Canada. She attained her BFA in 2006 at the School of Image Arts, Ryerson University. Sciarrino’s work has been included in numerous group shows, including trans/FORM at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto (2012) and To What Earth Does this Sweet Cold Belong? at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto (2011). Most recently her work was included in Who’s Afraid of Purple, Orange and Green?, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina (2014), Showroom at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, (2016), The pen moves across the earth at Blackwood Gallery, Mississauga (2015), and Lumens at Musée Régional de Rimouski, Rimouski (2016). In 2017 Sciarrino will have a solo exhibition at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge. Sciarrino was the recipient of the 2013 Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts’ Artist Prize.