Toggling between past, present, and future, Toronto-based artist Jawa El Khash’s project Nature’s Algorithm comes to life in two ways, exploring time, space, and memory through digitally generated holograms presented in an indoor installation, and in an online experience. Illustrating the mathematical algorithm underlying plant life, the works reveal forgotten species existing on the grounds of the Evergreen Brick Works, imagining a diverse future ecosystem.
Plant life is a core focus of El Khash’s broader practice, inspiring her creation of poetic digital worlds. The artist was introduced to the scientific study of flora and fauna at an early age by her grandfather, Dr. Mohamad El Khash, a plant pathologist and agriculturalist who dedicated his life to studying arid zones and drylands. Drawing on this personal history, El Khash applies the knowledge gleaned from her grandfather in her own way, using technology to showcase environmental ecology, connecting the human-made world to the organic, geometric marvels that inspire it. In her new, built worlds, the artist remixes current and endangered wildlife into alternate realities characterized by coexistence. From monarch butterflies to pickerelweed and rainbow trout, the artist transposes contemporary living beings into fantastical and imagined scenes both aboveground and underwater. Their jewel-like tones reveal the wonder and magic of the natural world, and the holographic medium itself.
In four luminescent holograms nestled in and around the historical brick press of the Young Welcome Centre, visitors can catch a glimpse of the plants and animals native to the land on which the Brick Works sits. The holograms invite viewers on a scavenger hunt of discovery and identification, where each composition simultaneously functions as a record of time past and an apparition of the future. In one piece, a silver maple tree stump — a long-time, beloved resident of the site — is reimagined as a fertile dwelling for a wild lupin and Karner blue butterflies, while semi-aquatic blue flag irises speak to the ravine’s floodplain. According to the artist, each shimmering scene serves as a memorial for what once was, while offering talismanic visions for future generations of plants and animals. Together, the holograms send a message of hope, sounding a clarion call for the conservation of existing native wildlife, and the restoration and regeneration of their natural habitats.
The installation will stay on site at the Evergreen Brick Works Young Centre until December 31, 2023. Visit Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm; Saturday-Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Viewers can also interact with the online portion of the exhibition, a 3D desktop simulation at naturesalgorithm.xyz.
Jawa El Khash is an artist, technologist and researcher whose painting, holography, virtual reality, and online simulations play on the poetics of the everyday nature of living in the world. Her replicas of reality blur the line between the invisible and the visible, the real and the simulated, the fictional and the fact. El Khash was mentored by artist Morehshin Allahyari for the program Lead Time at the Art Gallery of York University (2020). Her work was featured in the solo exhibition The Upper Side of the Sky at Interaccess (2020) and in group exhibitions at Gallery 44 (2021), Western Front (2021), Mutek (2020 and 2021) and 5th Istanbul Design Biennial (2020).