TERRITORIAL: THE LAND AND US
Stove Works / 1250 E 13th St. February 10 - June 16th
Larissa Rogers, Rachelle Dang, Cara Romero, Kandis Williams, Luis Vasquez La Roche, Gideon Mendel, John Gerrard, Amanda Brazier
Curated by Haley Clouser, TERRITORIAL: The Land and Us posits that the Euro-Western philosophy on land has incurred wide-reaching systemic issues still apparent today. This colonial mentality, which champions land as property to be owned, conquered, and exploited for resources and power, has catalyzed intercultural conflicts and brought in its wake diaspora, various forms of enforced labor, and now, the climate crisis. On view from February 10 to June 16, 2023 at Stove Works in Chattanooga, TN, this group exhibition will underscore the detrimental effects of ecological ideologies on both humanity and the environment, encouraging new approaches to our relationship with land.
Artists like Larissa Rogers, Rachelle Dang, and Cara Romero explore land and diaspora. Rogers’ “A Poetic of Living” uses soil extracted from sites of Black erasure to build molds of her body, which are then seeded with plants brought from Africa via the Transatlantic Slave Trade, like Celosia. Audiences traverse through the work, taking part in historical modes of cultural dissemination and destruction, and confronting fraught histories embedded in the earth. Dang’s “Uncertain Haven” reconstructs an eighteenth century botanical transport carrier used by Euro-American settlers to expropriate rare plant species from Caribbean and Pacific colonies. Her sculpture traces the similarities between the deracination and trafficking of both plants and people during imperialist eras. Romero’s “Evolvers” captures Chemehuevi children running through Coachella Valley, bringing visibility to the region’s displaced Indigenous populations and reclaiming the land back to their Native custodians.
Kandis Williams and Luis Vasquez La Roche examine land and labor. Williams’ film “Annexation: A Tango” draws connections between the programmatic and architectural structures of colonial plantations and modern prisons, both of which enforce agricultural labor upon people of color. Vasquez La Roche performs “Bricks, Palm Oil, Gunpowder, and Lemons,” where he calls upon white male audience members to construct a wall made from the title’s materials. The red clay bricks allude to colonialism’s existing architecture in the contemporary landscape and pay homage to the people of color who historically laid the bricks down. Vasquez La Roche identifies both visible and invisible legacies of labor seeped into land and infrastructure.
Gideon Mendel and John Gerrard speak to the origins and effects of the climate crisis. Mendel’s photography series, “Submerged Portraits,” identifies rising sea levels affecting historically colonized and disadvantaged countries, including Haiti and Thailand. Gerrard’s video simulations of oil spills from his “Flags” series presents the ways in which resource extraction industries have forever marred the American landscape.
Local artist Amanda Brazier will create an installation using nearby soil minerals to explore Chattanoogan land and its history to contextualize “TERRITORIAL”. Public programming will include performances by participating artists like Vasquez La Roche; talks with environmentalist scholars and local public figures; community workshops led by Brazier; and the screening of “Not Our Land” by Cannupa Hanska Luger, a film exploring Indigenous land rights.
Challenging this fraught, colonial perspective on land, TERRITORIAL will bring in its wake opportunities for deeper interhuman understanding and inspire a necessary custodianship for the land beneath our feet.