April 27th, 2018 -- June, 2018
Can we accept the idea that the richest soil has been tainted—or maybe enriched—by the negative?
- Pope L.
In the imaging of the counterpoint of land, we are offered a landscape that is no longer land. Instead the contiguity of force spreads, it is a convergence, a delimitation, an anti-memory, a few, and a many. And in all of it, the infinite engine of everything that happens and has ever happened gives way to the catastrophes of space and time.
In the spectre of Jamilah Sabur’s neon light sculpture, the shadow of the spectator is cast fugitive and fallen from the form. The work which reads UMWELT takes its text from the German loquation meaning “surrounding” or “environment” which was taken up by Thomas A. Sebeok as a way to define “the biological foundations that lie at the very epicenter of the study of both communication and signification in the human [and non-human] animal.” Most commonly translated as “the world as it is experienced by a particular organism,” the neon, and the shadow that it gives us, is a potent reminder of the striations and subjectifications of our experience of space. Here Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s charge that “underneath all reason is delirium and drift” is built into the sensorium of the work. The dissonance between each shadow and its figure is the slippage of delirium. The idea of the self-centered world is the underlying assumption upon which reality itself is striated and objectified. The arbitrary and carceral cutting of earth is predicated on this individuated drift of space and time.
In an interview with Marcia Tucker, Beverly Buchanan contemplates the complications of holding resonant points of space across indexical vernaculars. Sabur responds to Beverly Buchanan’s 1986 BlueStationStones, a massive work of public land art commissioned for the Earlington Heights metro station in Miami, a neighborhood that Sabur frequented as a child, with Untitled (container with biometrics), 2018--a container, a casting, that has in it a cooler of plaster and her hair. This is the inability to offer a way of breaking, opening, or holding the biometric information of a person that is sufficient to the fullness of a person, or land, or even the world.
Theorist Fred Moten defines conceptual art as “what allows us to love without seeing.” Jamilah Sabur’s enthralling expansive practice might then be understood as a kind of conceptual poetics - a subtle, almost surgical, subversion and symmetrical reversal of Moten’s formulation that like a gatekeeper poses silently the question, or more likely the riddle, “how is it that one, let alone us, could ever see without loving?” which is to say how when presented with all of this, with the ebbing and flowing plexus of the ocean in all of its material heft, did we not even come up empty handed, but instead with sadness? For Sabur, the answer is clear (or as clear as any answer could be) the processes and meanings that we name as territorialization and colonization, and the ways of seeing that come along with them - ethnography, cartography, and perhaps even the cutting characteristic of traditional conceptions of the canon of land art.
For Sondra Perry, the implications of this line of questioning play out in a single-channel video work entitled imakelandartnow.com, that resides on a 4:3 aspect ratio digital monitor. The unusual and now obsolete aspect ratio gestures at the ways in which we interact with land art. Through its documentation, we see seminal works in a frame dictated by their creator. Often cropping out the problematic consequences of hyper-masculine monuments that actively disregard the social, cultural, and spiritual valences of earth and place at the convergence of conflicting land claims from chicano and indigenous communities and in the calcified context of settler colonialism’s systematic disenfranchisement. Perry’s Facebook status in flight reads “I MAKE LAND ART NOW. PUT ME IN YOUR ALL WHITE MALE + NANCY HOLT LAND ART SHOW NEXT SPRING” recalling the histories of belonging and unbelonging that are informed by the subjectivities constructed by our exigencies with space.
The work of Ana Mendieta lays the foundations and parameters for Sky Hopinka and Elysia Crampton’s practices. Mendieta draws from the theorist Jose Estevan Muñoz who writes that we might conceive of geology and skin as one. In bringing the stratum of the earth with the body, Muñoz provides a point of departure for Mendieta, and her contemporary progeny, the exploration of organic matter as a membrane of black and brown existence, and the entanglements of the form with the forces that shape it. Crampton writes "The very pigment granules, generated by the cells that colour our skin, relay a strange union our bodies have with stone that affects how race is constructed, observed, recognised, excluded, or denied. To go further and consider ourselves on a geological level ruptures hierarchies and taxonomical divides as we find ourselves already deeply enmeshed in the strangeness and vastness of the timescales of the lithic." For Hopinka, these resonances metastasize through the construction and dissolve of language. Crampton works in sound. She culls from the ether, finding the simultaneous in chamber music and the early blues and with it pulling into being a landscape that is unmoored. Alternately, Hopinka surveys; following the pow wow recordings made decades earlier by his father, he layers images of the land over tapes of the dying languages that were born in its cradle. Hopinka probes how this idea of land remains as a visual imaginary, but fails as a practice. Both Hopinka and Crampton offer images that are intangibly material, and are in this way totally without surface, and instead only space and volume - a series of contradictory determinisms in migration. Crampton and Hopinka model the process of forgetting and the rhizome of memory.