Shelby Roberts

Albuquerque Postcards and “Nuggets”

In Topophilia, author Yi-Fu Tuan quotes a yeoman who speaks of the land they farm: “To me the land I have is always there, waiting for me, and its part of me, way inside me; it’s as much me as my own arms and legs”. This level of physical connection to land is something that I can approach abstractly because I have not had a history of intimacy with land in such a way that I feel land is my body. The middle-class aspiring white sub-suburban culture in which I was raised emphasized land and places as peripheral, background, or as destinations for vacations. Land and place were interchangeable or, at best, an assemblage of pretty objects to gaze upon and photograph.

The lived connection to land and place is something that I find compelling and important – if we were to find ways to connect land to our bodies, would we value land in ways that might resemble the ways in which we care for our bodies and the bodies of our family? I ask this question generally in the series of postcards I am creating for three locations in Albuquerque. The text on the back of each card juxtaposes language used by institutional entities such as the EPA, the military, and the City of Albuquerque with brief acknowledgments which attempt to connect physical and emotional experiences with the land. The language from institutional sources is often at odds with the text which draws parallels between the human body and land, and both are at odds with the pop/kitsch of the imagery on the front of each card, which references tourism and nostalgia regarding place. Each text/image lens points to how different people and entities may view land in entirely unique ways, which of course results in very different ways of relating to land. I hope to suggest visitation to these places which are not viewed as destinations, or are not known by much of the public, and also to suggest that human-caused issues with each landscape may point to ways we can heal ourselves and our relationships to land.

By using a postcard I hope to have these objects take on a life of their own after leaving my hands. A postcard has a brief relation with the person who procures it, often when they visit the location pictured on the postcard. The card is then sent to a loved-one, who may place the card in a box or onto their refrigerator with a magnet. It is the two moments – the first moment of encountering the postcard on-site and the moment the secondary recipient receives the card – that are most interesting to me. I also am interested in the gift function of correspondence, and imagine that some senders may receive correspondence in return as a result of sending a postcard.

The small cyanotype bags are full of “nuggets”, which are to be mailed on 11/23/2020 to each participant of the Land Arts Seminar. Each bag contains objects which are not mine to give and the ethical responsibility of rehoming these objects lies with the recipient.