The Wayward Symbionts - Text

Exerpt from "The Wayward Symbionts" by Jen McRorie. Full article here.


Tamara Rusnak’s large-scale drawing, It’s What’s on the Inside that Matters, takes on a distinct physical presence in the gallery space. Possessing an organic, skin-like or hide quality, its paper-machéd, wrinkled surface moves off and away from the gallery wall and onto the floor. Collaged sections of the drawing, which are constructed from recycled paper of books, maps, architectural drawings, etc., operate like passages, linking images of corporeal, scientific and industrial forms that shift easily between referencing bodily organs, intestines or veins to laboratory viles, test tubes, coils or mechanical parts. Each section of the drawing is presented like different stages of a filtration system or process, creating an imaginative, hybridized alchemical digestive system. Investigations into the science of digestive health and how this impacts our psychological and emotional states informs Rusnak’s artistic inquiries. These investigations along with the study of ecological sciences have led her to question how our digestive systems are connected to our mental health, how our thought processes are influenced by what our bodies digest and absorb, and how our bodies are connected to and impacted by our environment.


References to alchemy and laboratory research carry over into this new work from a previous series, An Ecology of Feeling. Employing scientific methods of inquiry in these prior works, Rusnak organized, analyzed and documented information to investigate emotions and states of depression. Building on her previous projects, this new work positions the biological or natural world in relation to science and other structures of knowledge. In resourcing medical and academic textbooks, dictionaries, atlases, architectural drawings, phone books and bank statements for the purpose of constructing handmade paper for the drawing, Rusnak identifies these sources as systems of language and structures of knowledge that organize and govern our thinking and societal structures. Having this organic, hybrid entity drawn on top of these existing structures and presented as a system in itself, Rusnak positions the body as encoded with knowledge, reflecting a wisdom that overrides conventional systems of knowledge and traditional scientific thought that emphasize the dualism of mind over body and culture over nature.