Rachel Yurkovich was born in South Carolina, but lived most of her developing years in the Republic of Macedonia and the Czech Republic.
She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture and Painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2014. With an interest in living things and their movement as a medium, her work often ends up as video. Rachel was granted the 2014 First Agnes Gund Traveling Award, which allowed her to travel to Chernobyl, Ukraine for filming in the Spring of 2016. Shortly after returning, Rachel had a solo exhibition on display at the ROY G BIV Gallery in Columbus, Ohio. Her videos have been exhibited in venues such as The Sculpture Center and SPACES Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Missouri. Her work has also been featured in film festivals such as Echofluxx 15, in Prague, Czech Republic and the Davis International Film Festival in San Francisco, California.
Rachel is currently living in Cleveland, Ohio with her chickens, where she works at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
In our modern world, there is a struggle to monitor appetites and avoid overindulgence. I am in constant observation of thoughtless choices, noticing that we often do not realize the weight of the impact we have on ourselves and our environment. In response to this, I frame instances of uninhibited consumption and the damaging consequences they often bring. This involves the use of insects and animals as stand-ins for human situations of desire, indulgence and self-destruction. Some may be based on pre-existing phenomenon; such as chickens enjoying the taste of their eggs or praying mantises eating each other after mating. I have been recreating these situations in order to witness them myself, to see how and when they actually happen and document them.
Black Grass focuses on the abandoned remnants of humanity and the life that thrives without it in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The Zone is an area in a 30 km perimeter around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor where people are forbidden to enter without authorization and an escort due to the harmful levels of lingering radiation.
When I traveled to Chernobyl, Ukraine in May of 2016, it had been thirty years since the nuclear power plant exploded. Spring was just beginning, and green was erupting from unexpected places. I was awed by the vegetation’s ability to break through buildings and pavement; it seemed as though no material could stop it. Thirty years without human influence turned a once populated city into a wildlife sanctuary. The exclusion zone was strangely one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited. I had the impression that there was no chance of encountering another human besides the few I came with.
This project ties into my previous work which brings to light consequences of people’s thoughtless actions. Similar to the Titanic catastrophe, where excess and overconfidence in technology resulted in too few lifeboats being available for passengers, the Chernobyl disaster demonstrates the potential repercussions of humanity’s hubris.