|Life After Death and Elsewhere
Tom Williams and Robin Paris
During the past year, the state of Tennessee has staged a nearly unprecedented offensive against those individuals it has sentenced to die. A state that has executed only six people since 1960 has recently scheduled ten executions. As prisoners on death row, and imminent victims of that state-sponsored violence, we represent the “bare life” described so powerfully by historians and philosophers. During the past two years, however, through an unusual partnership with artists, writers, and educators in Nashville, we have endeavored to make our circumstances visible to those beyond the walls of prison. Through published writings and art exhibitions, we have addressed a public that knows as little of our lives as they do of the indignities of belly chains or the menacing shimmer of razor wire.
Our past exhibitions have often included collaborations with artists and art students on the outside. We have created “add-on” drawings (exquisite corpses, more or less) with people beyond the prison, and we have started sketchbooks before sending them out for strangers to finish. We have composed “surrogate” assignments for outsiders to realize (photographs of the stars, for instance, which some of us haven’t seen in 25 years, or the libraries in cities that we will never visit). We have made gifts of our art works and offered them to visitors to the opening of an exhibition in exchange for their photographic portraits. In one show, we exhibited a diorama that traces the all-too-common path from poverty to prison, and in other, we exhibited our personal snapshots and family photos to offer the world a glimpse of our social lives and to show that we are more than prisoners and men condemned to death
In response to your call, we propose an exhibition that will feature designs for our own memorials alongside our representations of the lives we would pursue if we were free. We have all been condemned to death, and the state of Tennessee intends to kill us, but some of us are innocent, and we all hope to demonstrate that we are more than the sum of our worst deeds—or that we might be.
The works we will submit will include drawings, paintings, photographs, models, and text-based pieces. Some of us will submit statements outlining their reasons for refusing to design their own memorials.
Artists: Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman, G'dongalay Berry, Tyrone Chalmers, Gary Cone, John Freeland, Kennath Artez Henderson, Nikolaus Johnson, Donald Middlebrooks, Harold Wayne Nichols, and Derrick Quintero.
|Fencing In Democracy
Miguel Diaz-Barriga and
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, pundits rejoiced in the dawn of a new era, a world without walls. Instead, walls now permeate our world with 33 nation-states constructing them. Walls now separate Spain from Morocco (in the exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla), India from Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia from Yemen, Botswana from Mozambique and the United States from Mexico. These post-Berlin walls share, to varying degrees, the common goals of keeping out asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, terrorists, and smugglers. Many states, including the United States, view border walls as a key element in their wars on terror. These walls are the centerpiece of policies aimed at increased surveillance and militarization and the reconfiguration of rights and citizenship at borders. Their construction is part of border security industry that includes collaborations between the public sector and multinational corporations. Even though border walls are a strategic reaffirmation of state sovereignty, states build them with minimal public input on their necessity as well as location and design. Concrete walls, metal fences, and concertina wire speak to the overwhelming military logic that guides our current approach to borders. More specifically, in the United States, mainstream media, through its reporting and circulation of images, fuels the publics’ articulation of borders as war zones. Residents of border communities, human rights groups, leaders of Native American tribes, and environmental organizations contest this onslaught of government and corporate domination as well as the mass mediated spectacular. This contestation is a story rarely told and a media imaginary rarely re-imagined.
This bilingual (English and Spanish) group exhibition will bring together work by artists, activists, architects and other public intellectuals who created alternative designs for the US Mexico border wall or fought its construction. The major questions that this exhibition will address include: How can we reassert a more populist notion of sovereignty by reimagining borders and border walls? What is the role of art and architecture in providing a bulwark against the erosion of democracy that border walls materialize?
We envision that this group exhibition on the U.S.-Mexico border wall will invite dialogue about the politics of militarization and the ways in which border walls unite and divide communities globally. The works range from Maurice Sherif’s photography with its emphasis on the harshness of the border wall’s metal and rendering of the landscape as barren to architect’s Jim Brown’s architectural plans for a “friendlier” friendship park. Can border walls and international boundaries become eco-zones that produce green energy and sites of binational cooperation, as suggested by the architect Ronald Rael? The exhibition will also feature the work of artists who have located their art on the border wall itself, mainly on the Mexican side. The art of Alfred J. Quiroz, for example, draws attention to the theological and existential aspects of border crossings, including milagros (miracles) and deaths. Film clips from a documentary on Alejandro Santiago’s monumental art piece, “2501 Migrants,” will speak to the role of art in community building and (re)rendering the politics of Mexican migration to the United States.
Alfred J. Quiroz
Workshops and talks:
Scott Nichol, Artist and Sierra Club Activist
Dan Millis, No More Deaths
Sandra Garnica, Coalición de Derechos Humanos
Jennifer Dalton Vincent, Shona Kitchen, and Aly Ogasian
Setting Out presents a multidimensional view of contemporary expeditions. It recognizes an aspect of expedition as it relates to military, colonial and capitalist activities. It teases out the progressive and positive threads of the worlds of adventure and discovery from the tangle of pernicious connotations. It argues that contemporary explorers abide by a methodology of seeking wherein they create the ground for their expeditions as their process of exploration unfolds.
In its original use, the term expedition implied "setting out with aggressive intent" to procure a "prompt supply" of something desired. Today, the frontiers of contemporary expeditions exceed physical geography, greeting their horizon in a space shared by science, society and technology.
Yet, seeking is not without consequence. Expedition technologies, whether they be Google maps or reconnaissance drones, establish an experience of remote viewing, which paradoxically creates a greater distance between the viewer and the subjects or landscapes being viewed. The troublesome end of this effort is the celebration of technology as it allows for breadth and depth of expedition yet ignores the human potential and personal borders involved.
Setting Out presents our now-a-day explorers as polymaths and tinkerers whose process of discovery is inquisitive and multi-faceted, forensic and poetic. At once archaeologists, engineers, scientists, and artists, their intent parallels their forebearers, though their tools and approaches differ. What remains the same is the eager hunger of human impulse to explore the unknown, and the role of creativity and ingenuity in knowledge-seeking.
Charles Stankievech’s The Soniferous Æther of The Land Beyond is a film and sound installation shot at the northernmost settlement on earth, the Canadian Forces Station Alert in Ellesmere, Nunavut. The film examines remote outpost architecture, military infrastructure and the embedded landscape. By way of a time‐lapse tracking camera, Stankeveich probes and investigates the military spy outpost glowing within the winter darkness, calling to mind an abandoned space station.
Part of an established sub-culture of wreck-finders, Peter Merlin works as an archivist at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB. As a member of the Aviation Archaeology Field Research Team, Merlin collects and pieces together subtle clues from interviews with pilots, FOIA requests, historic photographs and field research in order to locate crash sites that have been deemed lost.
James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) is a long-term project that documents the effects of global warming on glacial ice, occupying a space between art, journalism, and science. It is the most wide-ranging glacier study ever conducted using ground-based, real-time photography, and provides compelling and shockingly beautiful visual evidence of the dramatic effects of human impact.
Setting Out will also feature the work of: Eve Laramee (artist), Robert Smithson (artist), Josh Forgione + Bruce Coffland (engineer, image processing, Airborne Sensor Facility NASA), Center of Land Use Interpretation (research and educational organization), Aly Ogasian + Shona Kitchen (artists), Jennifer Dalton Vincent (writer)