Do bridges divide us in the process of connection?
By what means does modernity and capitalism survive?
Big- I / I-25 / Pan American Freeway Las Cruses, NM – Buffalo, Wyoming
All freeways are highways, but not every highway is a freeway.
Pan-Americanism- 1888 movement toward commercial, social, economic, military, and political cooperation among the nations of North, Central, and South America.
1923 The concept of building a highway emerged at the 5th International Conference of the American States or Pan-American Conference.
> James Blaine, Secretary of State: proposed close ties between US + Latin America and would open markets to US trade.
> Western Hemisphere- create Union of the Americas where the US “would hold the upper hand and would be able to guide the agenda,” and carry heavyweight in major decision-making.
> Another reason for the union was so that the US could financially benefit from other countries.
theory > political theory > laws > power
"No collectivity of people in US American society is a enigmatic or misunderstood as Indigeous peoples."
“From the very first encounters with them five centuries ago. Europeans were confounded by these peoples who looked so different and lived lives that seemed not just diametrically opposed to theirs but even blasphemous. Europeans brought with them their fears and prejudices accompanied by a sense of entitlement to the land that had been home to the Indigenous peoples for untold thousands of years. They were occasionally respected by the newcomers, some of whom voluntarily left their own communities in the early days of settlement to live among the Indians. They learned to speak the Natives’ languages, intermarried, and had children with them, sometimes for love or companionship, sometimes just to build alliances and gain access to Native territories and to convert them to Christianity. But by and large the history of relations between Indigenous and settler is fraught with conflict, defined by a struggle for land, which is inevitably a struggle for power and control. Five hundred years later, Native peoples are still fighting to protect their lands and their rights to exist as distinct political communities and individuals.
Most US citizens’ knowledge about Indians is inaccurate, distorted, or limited to elementary-school textbooks, cheesy old spaghetti westerns, or more contemporary films like Dances with Wolves or The Last of the Mohicans. Few can name more than a handful of Native nations out of the over five hundred that still exist or can tell you who Leonard Peltier is. Mention Indian gaming and they will have strong opinions about it one way or another. Some might even have an Indian casino in their community, but they will probably be curiously incurious if you ask them how Indian gaming came to be or about the history of the nation that owns the casino. In many parts of the country it’s not uncommon for non-Native people to have ever met a Native person or to assume that there are no Indians who live among them. On the other hand, in places where there is a concentration of Natives, like in reservation border towns, what non-Native people think they know about Indians is typically limited to racist tropes about drunk or lazy Indians. They are seen as people who are maladjusted to the modern world and cannot free themselves from their tragic past.
On a whole, it can be said that the average US citizen’s knowledge about American Indians is confined to a collection of well-worn myths and half-truths that have Native people either not existing at all or existing in a way that fails to live up to their expectations about who “real” Indians are. If Indians do exist, they are seen as mere shadows of their former selves, making counterfeit identity claims or performing fraudulent acts of Indianness that are no longer authentic or even relevant. Non-Natives thus position themselves, either wittingly or unwittingly, as being the true experts about Indians and their histories- and it happens at all levels of society, from the uneducated all the way up to those with advanced college degrees, and even in the halls of Congress. The result is the perpetual erasure of Indians from the US political and cultural landscape. In short, for five centuries Indians have been disappearing in the collective imagination. They are disappearing in plain sight.“
All the Real Indians Died Off, By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker
11.6.20 // Alameda Open Space + Los Poblanos Open Space
I am so exhausted. I’m finding it impossible to ignore all that is happening right now, to think deeply about my work, what I’m doing here out by the river, and in general. I’ve spent time reading through writing from the past few months—I am interested in this:
10.14.20 Where is our oppositional energy most needed now? Where / when is it ok to surrender, disperse, and fade into the edges for rest? Can there be too much rest?
I’ve found it very challenging to hide the reality of all that is right now. I can’t pretend or fool myself into productivity. So for now, I am chasing texture—viscerally absorbing anything that doesn’t resemble the contours of my couch or computer screen. Waiting prone in the leaves, ribs and heart to the ground, there is time to witness the subtle vibrations of the river and distant indiscernible movements.
— 11.7.20 // Upper + Lower Montoyas Arroyo
I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t want to. I decided to start following the residual movement pathways of the last water to mark the sand in the arroyo. I walked for at least a mile before eventually finding a detour distraction of attempting to trace a water drainage pipe back to its origin somewhere in the Loma Colorado neighborhood—I never found it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how all of this neighborhood is obscuring the truth of the ground upon which it is built. It’s very challenging to hide the reality of all that is crumbling.
I walked about 5 miles through the arroyo and felt relieved to experience the texture and resistance of the sand against the soles of my boots.
— 11.8.20 // Volcanoes
Today I have been thinking about the practices that have kept me present with myself and my work throughout the past few years—hiking anytime and anywhere away from the city of Chicago was such an escape. I knew I could get up before dawn, drive somewhere and disappear for a few hours into a landscape that felt healing. Three days into our weekend now, I can finally think more clearly about what I am working on and why. The wind is intense, but somehow my mind is finally still—the first time in weeks that I have been able to focus enough to meditate calmly. The distance of the horizon here provides a counterpoint to my presence in my body—I am not there, but here. I am a guest in this sacred place, and I am grateful.
Thinking about my process in general is complicated. I feel like art is life and everything I do is somehow in process of creating this life. That being said I do recognize that when I consciously devote time to art making it can look very different from traditional art practices. I am a mover, a dancer, a singer, a skater, a mother, a mudder, a sculptor, a skilled seamstress and builder. My art practice includes all these things and more, things like research that I am just learning to recognize as part of my artistic process.
These past few months I have been researching and reimagining the Manhattan Project and the creation of the first atomic bomb. I have been fascinated with the secrecy and determination it took to build the town of Los Alamos and in turn the weapons that changed the world and ended World War II.
Los Alamos Investigations . . .
I became obsessed with the quick and secretive construction of Los Alamos and began to make a model of the town in 1944 using World War II picture books.
The paths I followed . .
In the process of making the model I travelled to Los alamos and spent the day investigating the museum that is located on the site that was the Boys School before it was the Lodge where the physicists bunked. I learned that the land was chosen for it’s ability to be secure and defendable up on top of the finger like bluffs of the Los Alamos mesa. This inspired me to try and build a base for the model that might represent these finger like land formations. I started by making adobe bricks formed in seltzer water boxes. When I stacked them up I found they were not exactly the right fit for the model and their appearance was quite pleasing aesthetically with the bright color combinations. I ended up making more water box bricks and building a wall as a barrier on a private road in my neighborhood.
The Wall of Water
Gadget inspired works
The quilt and sculptures . . .
I originally began the Trinity quilt thinking it too could create a base for the model and represent the many invisible women who worked behind the scenes to support the men who built Los Alamos and the bomb. I often use sewing and stitching to convey feminist themes and soft sculpture as a means to soften a masculine concept like I am doing here with the theme of national defense. For this project I was visually inspired by the gadget from the Trinity test. I created the quilt and the sculptural patches to reflect the gadget before it was activated with explosives and covered in patches. The wires, once plugged in, promoted activation and lead to detonation. The stitching on the quilt and the blue and gray wire sculptures are coiled and stitched in response to these patterns of detonation wires.
All of these investigations were fun to create and ended up being a good place to draw inspiration for a socially engaged project. I kept thinking, how could I take what I learned about the making of the first atomic bomb and transform that into a work of art that promotes change?
I live rurally and one thing that stuck out to me as I travelled to the city for this class was the increase in the visibility of people living without permanent shelter. The opportunities for art to function in this marginalized community is limited.
With these things festering in my thoughts I began to conceptualize a temporary tent like shelter shaped like an atomic bomb. This Bomb Shelter could function as a sculpture to bring awareness to the nuclear history of New Mexico and it’s struggling population of folks without permanent housing.
My process began by moving through all the previous research, embodied and otherwise, then making the model, the quilt, the wheat paste and soft sculpture responses. I don’t think I would have arrived at this final idea without processing all that other work.
Our field study occurred on lands of the Pueblo people—the true stewards of this place. I was/am a guest.
I keep thinking about the drinking-water facility beside the Rio Grande, “built to resemble a Spanish mission church to better blend in with its surroundings.” I stood beside it, hearing and feeling its industrial hum; it sounded like no church I’ve ever been to.
The past few months have been an awakening to the pipes and wires and tracks that uphold my life. I’ve been following lines and flows, realizing I walk by a natural gas pipe there, drive by a generating station here.
Why didn’t I see the infrastructure that supports me? Why is a pump station masked as a church? Are we ashamed of the cost of our living? What would it mean to create infrastructure meant to be seen? Something to be celebrated? Something not weighed down by costs we wish to forget?
Fences or distance, innocuous facade or duplicitous facade—all ways we keep infrastructure at bay. But it’s easy to witness effect.
I’m interested in where control lapses—where humans are reminded other forces and life have a say.
It’s like trying to hold a feather still in the wind.
For now, I’m working on seeing what I’ve been blind to.
I keep returning to these displaced trees, now standing as transmission poles.
I keep thinking of the years they collected and hardened sunlight, inch by inch. A height aimed at reaching light above a canopy. That height now holds wires, carrying energy at the speed of light.
For a brief moment I wanted to playfully yet systematically create parameters for myself in the landscape. I constructed vestiges of my moving body using vinyl flagging tape to map the temporary artificial boundary I placed myself within. Curious of what the natural environment would look like as a briefly constructed form, I used the spaces between branches, trunks of trees, the bottom of the arroyo to it’s top and the stones buried in it’s basin. I wanted to, if only for a moment, demarcate my passage, revealing it through my mark making with the graphic vinyl tape. I then dismantled and left the space to document the seemingly absent and erased trace of my past self. I was curious as to what the visibility of subtle distance may have been between the growth of two trees , between a stone or to the top of an eroding arroyo, making apparent the scale of a natural space through feeble and inconsequential attempts of mapping my movement through the landscape. These constructions were like minimal drawing exercises to try and reveal unseen distances I climbed or walked within these moments of occupying a space.
My interest in using vinyl flagging tape comes from seeing it left about in the landscape. Used as trail markers, and by land surveyors to mark a point of measurement, as well as in other forms of demarcating boundary lines. These pieces of vinyl tape left by someone are often used to help guide another through a particular area, to assist in their orientation. They read to me like small messages, seemingly unimportant, but may hold some meaning to the unknown person’s profession, a small trace of conversation from one to another in the land. I find myself photographing them often when I am hiking, biking, etc.
Kochia– an aggressive colonizing, migrant species; “an undesirable weed”. Prodigious in its tumbleweed method of seed dispersal; indicator plant of poor soil conditions; drought tolerant; resistant to herbicides; “ornamental”- and brought into the US for this reason around 1900.
…. “A colonial mode of relationship blocks consciousness.” .…
-Manu Karuka, (p. 25) in Empire’s Tracks
Invasiveness is deeply embedded into my experience of life as I am really just a visitor on the lands that I once believed I belonged to. I am realizing that I don’t feel like I belong to any place and long to know the physical earth that feels like I am of it. I’m paying attention to the ways that we invaders take root and displace thriving native communities, violently forcing intelligent systems out of balance. This imbalance ripples outwards.
How to reconcile this?
I first took note of this plant in the Bosque near the Hispanic Cultural Center. It stood out to me because of its assertive pink color which I was told was in reaction to the recent frost. After that initial sighting and gathering, I continue to encounter it everywhere and in very large quantities.
I revisited Valle de Oro after discovering that kochia had essentially lined the entire path on our walk to the Rio Grande and had completely overtaken the fields. It appeared on the roadside on 2nd Street in Mountain View, framing the AT&SF superfund site.
Kochia dyed handmade paper and deconstructed canvas thread
Familiar spaces: home spaces, my movement practice, the social space held between here and someone I love—that space. When I arrive here, sometimes I expect something to happen, or I expect to feel something, know, or learn something. I’ve been thinking so much about familiarity and unfamiliarity.
Arriving in, passing through a space unknown, there is a recognition of chasing an unfamiliarity and awe.
When a space becomes familiar, there is a shift. Expectations are formed and resurface. In some ways, the magic is lost.
Standing at the railyards reminds me so much of Chicago. The industrial corridor flanked by the river and Cortland Ave. bridge has warehouses with sky-high hundred year old glass window panes. When I left that city, I couldn’t wait to get out. After eleven years, the magic it once held for me was lost. I have wanted to connect more to Albuquerque and understand where I am. Not just spatially, geographically, but culturally, artistically, spiritually. Spending all this time with our LAAW cohort has begun to fill some of these gaps, but I know it will take much more time.
I have had a difficult time connecting to my new home enough to understand where my artistic work fits and how it will evolve due to our current social and economic circumstances (in the world, and in the dance field which still feels like my primary place). I’ve turned to my practice as a familiar space, but sometimes expectations interfere; comparisons to previous observations here, and former versions of self. There are former bodies, experiences, and understandings. My distance from my own work, and the stress of trying to maintain a home studio practice in the same space I live, work, sleep, and cook in has been an enormous challenge. Mostly, I am immensely emotionally exhausted.
I am sitting near the river at Valle de Oro and I found this metal folding chair in the tall grass. Everything is dry and crispy and the light is warm and golden. The dappled sun shadows are dancing through the grass and the breeze is quite strong. This is another familiar unfamiliar space. This feels like home—not Chicago home, but where my parents live in southern WI.
I have been missing water for many months. We spent the morning with Richard Moore and this is the first day in nearly seven months that I’ve felt truly inspired.
What are the possibilities for understanding and relating when there is constant change, evolving unfamiliarity, or even disintegration?
Can we all just slow down for a moment, or a few?
Can we move about the world “successfully” with softness? Can slowing down be a radical act?—Now, every aspect of our current social and environmental unrest demands urgency. How / where / what is the balance?