Noxious Sector Projects
312 S. Washington St.
Seattle WA 98104

David LaRiviere

Come Visit The Athabasca Tar Sands

According to the Canadian politician Ralph Klein, the eighth wonder of the world is right next door, a closely guarded secret of our neighbors to the north. A Canadian eighth wonder -- majestic and awe-inspiring, if perhaps not quite as polite as one might expect of something Canadian. Perhaps even the opposite of polite, this secret is destined to quickly become a readymade tourist attraction of the northern landscape.

The location is the Athabasca Tar Sands, the newest oil and gas repository of the Canadian prairies. When the night is clear, the northern lights illuminate the sky and the noxious fumes from the extraction processes fill the air to the delight of all who are there to witness.

It was Marcel Duchamp that famously invented the readymade, insofar as anyone can invent what was already there -- recasting objects in new light -- a urinal as a fountain, a stool as a work of art, and so the story goes. But why should this story begin and end with objects? Why not places too -- people or ideas or even events -- as though to see anything in a certain light would be a readymade remix waiting to happen.

Such is the project of David LaRiviere -- in the artist's words a "copyleft volley" -- in which a readymade is made of the Athabasca Tar Sands. In some ways the project is the ambitious attempt to make a readymade before it's actually ready -- a spectacle waiting to happen, or a bad joke suspended just before the punch line ruins everything. It's like visiting a disaster site before disaster strikes -- as if in some way to witness the twilight of a moment about to change. Come see the time bomb tick -- for that's what time bombs do best.

This is the anticipation of a moment where humor quickly turns to horror, and horror reveals itself as the making ready of a next environmental disaster, in the exuberant parlance of economic progress. This readymade disaster is one intended to attract attention before disaster strikes -- pre-emtive disaster-tourism, in the readymade form of a Canadian eighth world wonder.