artLAB Gallery, Western University

Lisa Hirmer, We Are All Atmosphere, documentation of a public art project, 2022

February 29 – March 14, 2024
Opening Reception: February 29, 5-8pm
artLAB Gallery, JLVAC, Western University, London, Ontario

Curated by MCS4605E
Exhibition Manager: Amanda White
Professor: Kirsty Robertson

Featuring artworks by: Janice Brant Kahehtoktha, Greg Curnoe, Simon Fuh, Stefan Herda, Lisa Hirmer, Tomonari Nishikawa, Nico Williams, Kelly Wood.

With contributions from: Biodiversity Gallery/Nina Zitani, Conservation Halton, Neal Ferris, Jessica Johnson/Smithsonian Institute, McCarthy Lab/Brock University, the Museum of Ontario Archeology, Patterson Lab/Carleton University, Corcoran Lab/UWO, the Richard W. Hutchison Geoscience Collaborative Suite/UWO, Aaron Shugar/Queen’s University, Amanda White/FOFA Gallery.

Kionywarihwaen, or Crawford Lake, is a small body of water that formed in a limestone cliff sinkhole near Milton, Ontario, just over 100km away from the artLAB Gallery. This exhibition responds to the 2023 selection of Crawford Lake by the International Commission on Stratigraphy as the “golden spike” that marks the start of a new proposed geological epoch, the Anthropocene. The lake is meromictic, meaning the layers of water within it do not mix, allowing for the preservation of sediment deposits in the lakebed. Because of this, layers of sediment lie untouched at the bottom of the lake, showing, among other things, evidence of human impact on the world in a layer of radioactive plutonium from nuclear weapons tests – the marker that has been decided represents the moment human impact becomes evident in the strata of the geologic record; that is, the Anthropocene.

How can we understand the impact of this moment? This exhibition uses stratigraphy as an organizing principle, pulling back layers to try to understand the complicated relations involved in naming a geologic era and marking it through a lake in Ontario. Eight artists investigating water, earth, air, soil, wood, rocks, and minerals, are paired with specimens and samples loaned from collections across Southwestern Ontario. Each pairing brings an additional level of complexity to the exhibition and illustrates the ultimate challenge of trying to fully grasp an epoch in a layer of sediment. meromictic focuses on both the opportunity to learn from the siting of the golden spike, and on all that escapes from accepted forms of knowledge.

This project was made possible with support from The Strategic Priorities Fund (UWO), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Rodger Research and Development Fund, The Department of Visual Arts (UWO), and The Centre for Sustainable Curating.

Join us on February 29 for the opening of the exhibition, and the launch of two publications: tba journal (special topic Plastic) and FOFA Gallery’s bilingual toolkit for sustainable exhibition signage (a collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Curating).

Kelly Wood, Great Lakes: Accumulations 14, Digital collage photographs / Water-based ink on cotton rag paper, 16 x 24, 2022

Related Programming

tba launch and film screening
February 29, 5-8pm
artLAB Gallery, JLVAC, Western University
(opening 5-7pm, screening 7-8pm)

tba journal is thrilled to announce the digital publication of our 5th peer-reviewed volume, PLASTIC, on view at: Join us to celebrate the launch, followed by a screening of three video-works featured in our newest edition by artists Morris Fox, Miles Rufelds, and Wiebke Schroeder. This event will be in person.

FOFA Sustainable Signage Toolkit launch
February 29, 5-8pm
artLAB Gallery, JLVAC, Western University

Through a series of hands-on workshops, in-gallery experiments, collaborations with artists, and conversations with others working on similar ideas, the FOFA has developed and documented alternative materials and techniques for creating sustainable gallery signage. A free bilingual (French/English) toolkit documenting these processes will launch on February 29, and will be available online at

Gwenyth Chao and Emily Chudnovsky
March 5, 3-5:30pm
artLAB Gallery, JLVAC, Western University
(curatorial tour 3-4pm, talk 4-5:30pm)

Organized by Ashar Mobeen

Artists Gwenyth Chao and Emily Chudnovsky will lead a panel discussion that delves into the intricate nexus of art and activism, the dynamics of power structures, and innovative pedagogical methods, particularly within the context of the Anthropocene. This event will be in person.

Francine McCarthy
Defining the Anthropocene in Sediments from a Meromictic Lake
March 12, 3-5:30pm
artLAB Gallery, JLVAC, Western University
(curatorial tour 3-4pm, talk 4-5:30pm)

Dr Francine McCarthy is Professor of Earth Sciences also appointed to the Department of Biological Sciences and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre at Brock University, Ontario. She is also Research Associate in Natural History at the Royal Ontario Museum and a voting member of the Anthropocene Working Group. She will talk about her work investigating the potential of the varved sequence in the hydrologically unique Crawford Lake to define the Anthropocene. This event will be in person.

Tahir Karl Karmali
March 14, 3-5:30pm
artLAB Gallery, JLVAC, Western University
(curatorial tour 3-4pm, talk 4-5:30pm)

Organized by Katie Lawson

Tahir Carl Karmali is a Nairobi-born and Brooklyn-based artist. His textile sculptures in the series Strata (2017-2019) are made from dyed raffia stained with cobalt sourced through a ‘reverse mining’ practice whereby old American cell phone batteries—bought on eBay—are dismantled to extract the copper, cobalt oxide, and aluminum. Strata is currently on view as a part of the exhibition Erratic Behaviour (2024) at Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. This event will be in person and recorded.

Student-designed catalogues for the exhibition meromictic, featuring buckthorn berry ink, 2024


Located in the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre at Western University, the artLAB Gallery supports student and faculty-led research and production. Exhibitions provide a platform to respond to pertinent social and cultural issues, and/or explore conceptual, formal and material-based interests.

Western University is located on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak, and Chonnonton peoples, on lands connected to several Treaties including Treaty 6 London Township, Treaty 7 Sombra Township, Treaty 21 Longwoods and the Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum. This place continues to be home to diverse Indigenous peoples who are recognized as contemporary stewards of the land and vital contributors to society.

JLVAC, Western University, London, Ontario
(519) 661-2111 x 85855

Instagram @westernuvisarts
Instagram @centreforsustainablecurating

artLAB is fully accessible.

Image descriptions:
1. The image depicts a metal sign with the words “A reminder that you too are atmosphere” displayed in front of a grey and cloudy sky.
2. In the top left hand corner a seagull floats on a piece of Styrofoam above digitally collaged layers of garbage, water, and green grass.
3. Two booklets with letterpress printing on the front spelling out meromictic lie in front of two similar booklets that have been unfolded in accordion style. The top of each booklet mimics stratigraphic layers.