The art of agriculture

One of the most captivating and unique exhibits ever to come to Laurier is now on display at the Robert Langen Art Gallery.

Multimedia artist Steven White is the creator of The Combine Project, which showcases interactive kinetic sculptures in addition to paintings and prints. The piece features themes of change, agriculture and the fate of family farming.

White, who now lives in rural Ontario, found the inspiration and the means for his sculptures when he first moved to Walter Falls 10 years ago. Upon arrival at his new home, White found an abandoned 1964 Allis-Chalmers All-Crop combine harvester, a relic piece of technology commonly used by small family farming operations 40-50 years ago.

Since then, the face of agricultural production has been in a state of rapid change. Today the factory farm is the primary way farming has been able to remain a profitable enterprise.

Furthermore, food production has been largely left to advancements in technology with genetically modified organisms and large biotech companies securing patents on genetically altered seed stock.

White has dismantled the old combine and made it into a completely new and creative piece, symbolic of the changes occurring in agriculture and farming at both the domestic level and in the larger global economy. The sculptures are extremely interesting and interactive, allowing curious art seekers to see and touch the different movable parts of the once All-Crop combine harvester.

Almost all the sculptures make some kind of noise. The insect-esque sculpture aptly named “Cricket” makes creaks and clanks. Another installation titled “Grain Bin Sound Machine” utilizes a steel track and a steel ball that run down the grain bin, hitting bells and other metallic instruments.

The exhibit really requires viewer involvement and participation in order to produce the sounds of each piece.

White has also gone out and found the original owners manual for the combine and transfers drawings of crops and lithographed images from the manual onto the steel and wooden surfaces of the combine. The overall effect of these oddly beautiful sculptures and printed images act as a metaphor of the rapidly changing pace of technology.

White’s solo exhibitions have been displayed in museums and art galleries across Ontario as well as the United States.