Curated by Annie Malcolm and Rachelle Reichert
Exhibition September 8th – 29th
Opening event + Panel: September 11, 2018
Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco
Trace Evidence is an exhibition and a panel discussion at Minnesota Street Project, in partnership with SFMOMA Public Dialogue, in which the curators—2019 GUH Fellow Annie Malcolm and artist Rachelle Reichert—will convene visual artists from China and the U.S. who are considering issues of environmental change focused on China. Trace Evidence will take place in San Francisco in September 2018, during the Global Climate Action Summit, and is formally affiliated with GCAS. The curators are interested in interrogating the work of art as a platform for cross-cultural conversation about climate change. Annie Malcolm discusses the conception of the exhibition and its connection to her research on Chinese art villages.
Americans gaze over to China and see the physical conditions produced by late capitalism magnified because of the scale and speed of development. China’s processes of industrialization and urbanization have degraded their environment in parallel fashion to US industrialization but, due to its rapid progress, they are uniquely perceptible.
Thinking with Timothy Morton, we conceive of climate change as a hyperobject (Morton 2013): its entirety can never be seen, yet it affects everything. How are artists taking the visual elements of climate change, pollution, and extraction and making them accessible? How are artists trying to see this thing that is impossible to see but felt everyday? Climate change is a form of slow violence (Rob Nixon 2013), harming and displacing people, enacting violence at a slower speed than violence usually occurs; climate change forces the rethinking of timescales.
The work we will show in this exhibition deals with these issues on different levels of directness. Some of the work offers the opportunity to meditate on the questions, think about scale, and be in a sensible relationship to place, landscape and environment; other works expose the viewer to the violence of extraction and the factors at work in climate change. By exhibiting both American and Chinese artists, this exhibition will look from the outside while addressing the area from within.
Coming to Berkeley to start my Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2013, my plan was to study art worlds in Beijing. In 2015, however, after my experience in the GUH studio course Art + VIllage + City, taught by GUH professors Winnie Wong and Margaret Crawford, exploring Guangzhou and Shenzhen, I changed my field site to an art village outside Shenzhen. This came in part out of the arrival at Wutong Art Village, twenty minutes down the road from Dafen Village and yet seemingly a world away from Shenzhen’s rapid speed and intense industry. Wutong sits atop the Shenzhen Reservoir, Hong Kong’s water source, and is thus an ecological preserve site. Therefore, while the art there doesn’t sell at a scale like that of Dafen, a creative enclave is given space to thrive. Southern China has a unique history in relation to urbanism and experimentation, both with capitalism and aesthetics.
The GUH course gave me a level of comfort with the studio visit form that I didn’t previously have; it taught me about presenting ideas visually, and about making research communicable through exhibition. Since I met artist Zhou Tao shortly after the GUH studio (who is one of the artists featured in Trace Evidence), I have wanted to show his work back home in the United States—his tender vision, acute methods of processing what he sees as pressing issues of our time and his creation of visual art that is cutting and human, abstract and accessible, bleak and beautiful. Trace Evidence is that desire realized, and with the added excitement of working in affiliation with GCAS to bring art and climate change into conversation.
About the Curators
Rachelle Reichert creates graphite drawings and sculptures inspired by research of Chinese graphite mines, the source of graphite used in her artworks. The drawings depict abstract shapes from up-to-date satellite images of the mines. Working the graphite to reveal its material capacities through the visual language of abstraction, she explores the cost of green technologies and industries.
Annie Malcolm is a sociocultural anthropologist whose work explores how Chinese artists respond to environmental and urban change. Currently writing an ethnographic monograph about art villages in outer Beijing and Shenzhen, she has worked in China over the last five years in research, installation, and translation capacities. Malcolm is a 2019 GUH Fellow and participant in the 2015 studio course Art + Village + City, for which was also the director for the satellite exhibition at the Shanghai biennale. She was also editorial assistant for the 2015 GUH sponsored journal P[art]icipatory Urbanisms, as well as a contributor to the GUH Special Issue of Room One Thousand Urban Pilgrimage. Malcolm is grateful for GUH’s support on this project.
Image: Zhou Tao The Worldly Cave [Fán Dòng] 2017, film still. Courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space
Morton, Timothy. 2013. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Nixon, Rob. 2013. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
From the Arts Research Center blog: http://arts.berkeley.edu/mapping-as-research-with-trevor-paglen/
By Laura Belik (GUH Graduate Certificate Student and instructor of the Fall 2018 Colloquium: The City and its People)
April 24, 2018
Trevor Paglen’s work and interpretation of space are great examples of the association between art and research. Blending photography, installation, investigative journalism and science, Paglen’s approach reveals that there is always more to an image than what we anticipate, and that these perceptions announce strong political meanings as well.
Paglen’s background and professional life include being a musician and composer in the punk-scene; doing an MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago; and later receiving his PhD in Geography at UC Berkeley. “You are creating your own space”, reflected ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson, in conversation with the photographer. We can see how this is reflected in the images he produced especially when it comes to his series of photos of official places/objects that “don’t exist”; that are a political secret. “Open Hangar, Cactus Flats, NV, Distance ~ 18 miles, 10:04 a.m” (2007) exposes classified military bases and installations located in remote areas. The photo taken from a distance, combined with the heat waves and extended exposure time looks like a blurred landscape. The dichotomy of what you can and what you can’t see; what we know and what is hidden from us, is precisely a conversation the artist is trying to have. Parallels to a criticism on the “war of terror” and the military hidden agenda are addressed revealing the physical aspect to these ideas, and at the same time, how they continue to be obscured from us.
The artist sees both the landscape and the act of seeing and understanding it as a performance: “It is not just about making images of this space, but a performance of someone trying to make the image of that space.” Paglen talks about the aesthetics of these acts, and how they are an example of the tension between what is seen and not seen. Beyond the final image, we ought to remember that there is a political performance happening behind those lenses as well. Images become allegorical for Paglen in that sense, and photography in this case, is understood as a platform in direct connection to the history of survey, fear, borders, etc.
Other topics present in Paglen’s images are addressing artificial intelligence, and figures created only through algorithm representing a space, which leads to conversations on the role of the machine as the curator; on another project, similarly to the one on classified military spaces, Paglen offers a closer look to our sky, tracing airplanes, drones and secret satellites once again confronting people about the things we don’t know, bringing to light hidden images. The latter ultimately evolved into the project the artist is currently working on of his own satellite to be launched within the next few months. His goal with this new proposal is to launch something that has no specific purpose other than its aesthetics, as a purely artistic gesture of a giant mirror that reflects light down on earth. Although understanding this object as a very contradictory one, the artist also argues that by doing this experiment, for the first time one will be detaching the history of the satellite from a military one, therefore he names this as an “impossible object”.
About the writer and ARC event:
Laura Belik (PhD Student, Architecture) reviewed the Arts Research Center Event: Mapping as Research: Trevor Paglen in conversation with Julia Bryan-Wilson on April 24, 2018. To celebrate his first comprehensive artist monograph, Trevor Paglen (UC Berkeley Geography PhD and 2017 MacArthur “genius” fellow) discussed his work with ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson. Paglen’s work relentlessly pursues what he calls the “unseeable and undocumentable” in contemporary society. Blending photography, installation, investigative journalism, and science, Paglen explores the clandestine activity of government and intelligence agencies, using high-grade equipment to document their movements and reveal their hidden inner workings. The new publication includes a survey text by Bryan-Wilson and presents over two decades of Paglen’s groundbreaking work, making visible the structures and technologies that impact our lives.