Chris Kowal: 1986
April - May, 2011
Using architectural processes and design language to interrogate a historic moment, Vancouver-based artist Chris Kowal presents a series of handmade models of catastrophic events: the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the derailment of the Mindbender roller coaster at West Edmonton Mall and the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Referencing oft-repeated media imagery of these incidents, Kowal fixes traumatic moments from the past in a medium typically used to represent future ideals.
Kowal creates each scene twice, in mat board and in balsa wood, alluding to a dualistic political discourse while presenting instants that point to its unraveling. The two models that comprise each pairing differ in material and scale, suggesting a divergence in interpretation and gaps in memory.
Although reduced in size, the horror and surreality of each event is amplified in the meticulously rendered structures, giving form to anxieties about technology, late capitalism and human fallibility.
Since graduating from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now Emily Carr University of Art and Design) in 2002, Chris Kowal has worked in architecture and 3D illustration, often incorporating strategies from these disciplines into his photographs, drawings, sculptures and videos.