Curator Xiaoyu Weng
The growing consciousness of ecology can be considered as one of the only utopian impulses that has been handed on unspoiled from the twentieth to the twenty-first century. It has also placed California in the center of its various discourses more globally. The concerns surrounding the ecology utopia not only include the specific and pragmatic ones about climate change, the environment and the bio-techno movements that intend to make peace with nature, but also point to much broader issues, the ones about politics, the deeper queries of humanity and our existence and the questionable dualistic divisions between objectivity and subjectivity, between facts and fiction-making.
Against this background, the new works created by the Headlands’ 2013-14 Graduate Fellows during their yearlong studio residencies become especially relevant to our time. Floris Schonfeld continues his investigation into the Damagomi Group, an entity composed of spiritualists and academics, and was active in Northern California from the 1920s to the late 1970s. Through installation, film, and the display of archive materials, Damagomi Project (2012 – ongoing) mines the legacy of the historical counterculture movements in California and its contemporary provocations while the identity and authenticity of the Damagomi Group remain unknown. Nyssa Zinn’s observations of ocean are presented through prints on Vellum as an installation. Her poetic and formal interpretations of nature reconsider its relation with humans. For Zinn, nature is never a passive, material background that is external, but an intergraded part of her everyday experience. David Janesko explores the ambiguity and transformability of natural and artificial materials. His work responds critically to the “post-nature” condition in which we are situated, where human activities have altered the environment so extensively and created manmade sedimented layers spreading and encompassing the globe. Similarly, May Wilson’s sculptural work highlights the tension between industrial materials and natural resources. The seemingly contradictory juxtaposition of textures, forms and structures brings forward results that are unexpected, serendipitous, and point to new connections between “found” and “made.”
Simon Pyle’s practice investigates the visual ruptures introduced by technologies of representation – the screen, the digital camera, and the jpeg file – even as they present a hyper-realistic simulation of the reality. Pyle extrapolates the paradoxical relationship between the irreversible natural decomposing process and the preservation promise of the digital technology. Dawn Weleski’s Three Views of a Mountain: Anyang, South Korea is a documentation of a two-month long public participatory project that took place in the Gwanak Mountains of Anyang, South Korea. Through a series of guided hiking tours, the project investigates the different understandings of and references to the mountains in South and North Korean societies. Through the construction of myths, rituals and beliefs, the natural landscape lends itself to the production of cultural and political imaginations. Reality blurs into invented stories and vice versa. Dru Anderson creates narratives that weave personal experience into bigger social concerns. With the use of drawing, painting and installation, Anderson probes into humans’ deep existential concerns. Objective reality becomes dissolved in a dream landscape where alternative understanding becomes possible.
As with escalating weather patterns and other chaotic macro-phenomena of nature, the thoughts and gestures of contemporary artists resolve in convergent as well as divergent fashion. And as with both organized and spontaneous social and political enterprise, creative individuals express themselves through a wide range of mediums and idiosyncratic approaches. Collective Disturbances showcases these efforts and the creative exchanges among the seven artists. Through the lens of their practices, we become more aware of the multi-stable relationships between background and foreground, human and non-human, culture and nature, subject and object, the planet and history.
About the Graduate Fellows Program
Headlands’ Graduate Fellowships provide yearlong studio residencies to recent, promising MFA graduates in partnership with seven esteemed Bay Area academic institutions. Bringing together representatives from each of these institutions, this exhibition provides a composite view of select Bay Area graduate art programs.
Image: Damagomi Archive # 17, photograph, 2013 by Floris Schönfeld; design elements by Valerie Shagday