This project archive contains information on our field-based research that led to the creation "Studies for Making and Unmaking"
Imagine Our Parks launched on June 13, 2016. Developed by artists Krista Caballero and Trudi Lynn Smith, as a research-based experimental art installation into contested boundaries, shifting borders, territories, and crossings. The project was titled “Imagine Our Parks” as a tongue-in-cheek response to Imagine Your Parks, a call for artworks created by the USAmerican National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Park Service (NPS). We created a call to action to address what we think is missing in the NEA/NPS call, specifically to think through and address the contestation/complexity of “public funding for the arts” and “public lands".In June 2016 selected artists joined us both virtually and physically at four locations beginning in (present-day) Yellowstone National Park in changing camp site and field site installations. The project journeyed from Yellowstone to the City of Rocks National Reserve, ID; Oregon Desert Trail, OR; and Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, CA.
Imagine Our Parks was not proposed as a reaction. We were inspired by the opportunity to move beyond the limitations of the NEA/NPS call and the critique that can be lodged against it. Our aim was to think beyond the habit of binaries (good and bad, inside and outside, art and science) to rethink “public funding for the arts” and “public lands”. As a method, we emphasized both ground truthing and open-ended experimentation as ways to work out ideas differently together.
We invited artists to join us and create an alternative platform that might address some of the radical inequality within artworlds. We wanted to challenge normative structures and reveal gender and racial bias found in the history of public art how it continues into the present. As we noted in our call, we join other feminist art projects that that seek to re-centre that which becomes marginalized and advocate for (in the words of the venerable Franklin Furnace ) "forms that may be vulnerable due to institutional neglect, their ephemeral nature, or politically unpopular content."
With public arts funding on our minds, our project launched on the anniversary of “The Perfect Moment,” Robert Mapplethorpe’s retrospective at Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The show was infamously cancelled on June 13, 1989, due to controversy around federal arts funding and censorship. This became a defining moment in US art history -- a maelstrom -- about who and what kind of art should receive funding. Artists working on issues of corporeality, identity and sexuality were accused of obscenity by political conservatives. Artists like the NEA Four worked to legally challenge these perceptions but in the end funding was restructured to privilege organizations rather than individual artists. This eased the state’s control over art production and circulation and has helped to define USAmerican Art over the past 30 years.
"Studies for Making and Unmaking" is a series that emerged from the process of experimentation between Caballero and Smith during Imagine Our Parks.
We came as visitors to listen and learn about these more-than-human worlds through making and unmaking. Camp site and field oriented installations and performances were grounded by works prepared for the experimental encampment by the artists ahead of time: a portable field desk, pup tent camera obscuras, a skying tent, and a breath camera. During the journey, the addition of a video archive, drawings, as well as collected hues and dirt were worked into the installations and performances and remediated through documentation. The outcome is a series of photographs; video projection, and a hybrid sculptural form. The hybrid form reflects our open-ended experiments. We are interested in the effects of political borders, land management strategies by governments and locals, the history of artists working in parks and protected areas (and how they are represented and reinforce nationalist histories). As artists we reflect these structures through an intervention, a refusal to discernability, and linear history. Our hybrid form is curved and pulled by gusting winds, distorted through projections on paper, focused on everyday ecologies, connected by hdmi cables, watched by a community of pinyon jays, and interacted with by humans and cliff chipmunks.