AUGUST 9, 2021
This week we recognize the work of artist Julia Oldham.
Using a range of media, from animation to graphic storytelling, Oldham gives voice to the animals, ecosystems and scientific phenomena all around us. Her narrative works explore the complex relationships between nature and technology, humans and animals, and science and creativity.
Fallout Dogs (2019) is a cinematic portrait of Chernobyl guided by the movements and activities of the stray dogs that live in the exclusion zone and the people who take care of them.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster began on April 26, 1986, with an explosion in Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Power Plant. Over 100,000 residents were evacuated on buses and told to leave everything behind. During the ensuing clean up effort, many of the abandoned pets were shot to prevent contamination. Some survived by making their way to the power plant, where workers and self settlers have been caring for them and their descendants ever since.
"BRIDGET is a deep learning machine (AI) that I programmed to offer soothing advice from a large selection of self help books. Though she uses nearly 1000 books to learn from, half of which contain “self help” or “mindfulness” in the title, her advice is quirky and fantastical, utilizing math and probability to build meaning out of the text in the books that she has stored in her corpus. I have performed her advice, taking on the persona of BRIDGET, to create this video, which is presented in the style of YouTube self-hypnosis and self-help videos. The title of my project, “Loneliness Creeps Down the Spine,” was also text generated by BRIDGET."
The Loneliest Place is a 14-page graphic novella about a scientist and her robotic canine scientific partner. Together they embark on a mission to find a black hole, approach it, and escape from its grip. This work was commissioned by Art Journal and printed in the Spring, 2016 publication. In the Art Journal printing, the novella is peer reviewed by astrophysicist Roban Kramer of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.
Julia Oldham is an artist living and working in Eugene, OR and New York City. Her work has been screened/exhibited at galleries including Art in General in New York, NY; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY; the San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, CA; and The Drawing Center in New York, NY. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and the Village Voice, and has been featured on the NPR shows “State of Wonder” on OPB and “Inquiry” on WICN. juliaoldham.com
Featured Images: ©Julia Oldham, Fallout Dogs; Loneliness Creeps Down the Spine; The Loneliest Place
Above: Julia Oldham/Photo: Still from Terra, a three-channel video projection created and performed by Oldham for "The Observatory," a multimedia installation by Really Large Numbers.