Presented in partnership with SAIC’s Conversations on Art & Science Series
The Art Institute of Chicago, Rubloff Auditorium
230 S. Columbus Dr.
Mark Dion’s practice examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. He believes the job of the artist is to go against the grain of dominant culture to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeology, field ecology and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between objective and rational scientific methods versus subjective and irrational influences. Dion’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on wunderkammern of the 16th and 17th centuries, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. He also frequently collaborates with museums of natural history, aquariums, zoos, and other institutions mandated to produce public knowledge on the topic of nature. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, he questions the role of the scientific voice in contemporary society. Dion tracks how pseudoscience, social agendas, and ideology creep into public discourse and knowledge production.
Dion’s public works range in scale from extensive architecture projects to print interventions in newspapers. Recent projects include The Amateur Ornithologist Clubhouse, a Captain Nemo-like interior constructed in a vast gas tank in Essen, Germany, and Den, a large-scale folly in Norway's mountainous landscape featuring a massive sculpture of a sleeping bear in a cave, resting on a hill of material culture from the Neolithic to the present. Dion has also produced large-scale permanent commissions for Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, and the Montevideo Biennale in Uruguay, among others. This October, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, will host Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st Century Naturalist, the largest American survey to date of the artist’s work. Dion has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award, Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, and Smithsonian American Art Museum's Lucida Art Award. Major exhibitions include the Drawing Center, New York (2017); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2016); British Museum of Natural History, London (2007); Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003); and Tate Britain, London. Dion is co-director of Mildred’s Lane, an innovative visual art education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.