Robert Hengeveld

Into the Wild, 2007

(a collaboration with Marcia Huyer)

This temporary public sculpture by Robert Hengeveld was installed at Lemoine Point Conservation Area in Kingston, ON. Located in proximity to the main parking area, Hengeveld’s work expands on values of the natural and nature in a mediated space.

The work of Toronto-based artist, Robert Hengeveld, has previously been described as “modestly spectacular.” His subject matter often deals in the simple, the mundane, and the familiar – the modest. Indeed, the work displayed at Lemoine Point resembles little more than an abandoned camping tent pitched at the edge of the woods. What makes this particular tent more spectacular than others is that the backside has been cut away to create an open grotto in which strips of camouflaged nylon hang like earthy stalactites dripping from a thick, mossy cave. The sheltered portion of this tent is meant to mimic the hollow space found between thick groupings of dense, living brush. However, its overtly synthetic material and deliberately bright red shell belie any natural relationship to the protected woodlands of the Conservation area. Just like a store-bought camping tent, the chimerical cavity of Into the Wild offers us a softer, cleaner experience of nature.

As a complete image – earth, tent, trees, sky, stars – this installation paints something like a reminder of our own forays into the backwoods: propelled by romantic desires to ‘get away’ to the profoundly silent, untouched hinterland that lies just beyond the pressing strictures of the city limits. In this way, Into the Wild also has something in common with the ubiquitous genre of Canadian landscape art that has played a significant role in constructing our country’s vast wilderness as a sublime and metaphoric subject akin to (colonial) National Identity itself. The absurdity of Hengeveld’s representation hints at a tension between the ‘authentic’ landscape of our cultural imagination and our own mediated interaction with it. Through the use of tents, hiking boots, windbreakers, steel knives, matches, portable stoves, bottled water, etc., how much of our urban lives do we bring with us ‘into the wild’? And just how ‘wild’ is this land?

Hengeveld is an installation and multi-media artist currently living and working in Toronto, Canada. He completed his MFA at the University of Victoria in 2005 and studied the Ontario College of Art and Design. He began his art practice at Georgian College, where he received a Certificate and Diploma in Fine Arts.

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