by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
Over the past decade, the inevitable bond between earth and humans has regained interest in the field of arts. The translation of this attentive motivation to the field of exhibition space has had a curious amalgamation of mediums and materials. To fill the gap across this conceptual thought and expressive arts is the latest exhibition, and we learn to keep the soil wet, at CARA (Center for Art, Research, and Alliances), New York, curated by Manuela Moscoso, the Executive Director and Chief Curator of CARA, produced by Agustin Schang, with the assistance of Marian Chudnovsky, the Program and Administrative Assistant. This exhibition as well as the initiatives of CARA are an extension of the guiding question: "How can we dream not only about ourselves?"
The art exhibition brings together the artistic practices of nine individuals—Antonio Henrique Amaral, Ane Graff, Timothy Yanick Hunter, Kite, Ana María Millán, Ebony G. Patterson, Khari Johnson-Ricks, Suellen Rocca, and Zheng Bo—to ponder upon the idea of how universalised definitions of the body are determined by the “cultural dominance”. The superiority is achieved through strategic acts of oppression and erasure. When the soil and the corporeal are the forms of coexistence despite the perpetual flow of aggressive violence, it simultaneously puts the cycle of growth and decays into motion. Irrevocably, it informs social and racial relationships. The knowledge initiatives of CARA (re)imagine the body and its milieu as a part of “porous organisms.” In other words, this engagement is a continual process of “co-creation and mutual influence.” Towards this end, this perspective draws responses towards a world that embraces the “diversity of life”: a contemplative self-encouraged to preserve the bounty of the earth and care for all its inhabitants. Even if this is a continuous struggle—it is an embodiment of how we reach the point to access the beauty of “interdependence”.
Since these artists survey an ethos of “intimacy and reciprocity,” they employ visual and sonic languages that transcend conformist boundaries between nature, the body, and technology. Instead, they view these salient elements as interconnected and shaped by “solidarity and conciliation”. The works of the nine participating artists emerge from “emotional architectures such as dreams, the resilience of forests, the memories of the flesh, and the connections between the gut and the brain,” elucidates the press release. Consequently, the artworks featured in the exhibition both nurture and nourish a collective world rather than individualism to establish a way for expansive networks.
In an interview with STIR, Moscoso walks us through the selection of the artists and how they speak to the sonic and visual quality of the exhibition. “These nine artists were selected for their range of engagement with ideas of interdependence and intimacy. We were interested in bringing together aligned practices that act symbiotically,” she says. To give the two instances of the same from the exhibition are the meditations on dreams of motherhood by the painter Suellen Rocca—one of the original members of the Hairy Who, a group of six visionary Chicago artists who exhibited together between 1966 and 1969. Secondly, the experimental technological performance representing dreams using a Lakota visual language by Kite, who is an award-winning Oglála Lakȟóta performance artist, visual artist, composer and academic raised in Southern California. While curating, Moscoso and the team wondered, how can the concepts explored by each artist speak to each other across space and time? “We hope the display of these works invites the viewer into a collaborative process of engagement, where they can interrogate human impact on the land and the land’s impact on our bodies on a collective scale,” mentions Moscoso.
A discerning mind is curious to know how these multimedia works speak to each other. With work that spans art performance, video, painting, and chemical experiments, the exhibition is constructed around the interplay of each artist’s practices, which produce productive tensions when displayed together. Moscoso explains, “The placement of Ane Graff’s The Loss of Memory with Other Losses directly opposite Ebony G. Patterson’s ...in the swallowing...she carries the whole...the hole (an ongoing work) generates an expanded understanding of soil—the pollutants it absorbs, the histories it holds, and the beauty it can produce. By situating a wide range of work in conversation we hope to illuminate the delicate web of interconnections between each work, reinforcing an ethics of care and solidarity beyond the human.”
The curatorial framework conceived by Moscoso fosters a dynamic dialogue between the artworks. The harmonious coexistence allows for unique interactions and interpretations, sparking new perspectives and ideas. The range of materials used, whether it be traditional or experimental, adds layers of texture, depth, and sensory experiences. This collective arrangement not only celebrates individual artistic voices but also generates collective energy, where the sum of the parts transmutes into a cohesive whole, inspiring and captivating viewers. When asked about the final takeaway after watching the exhibition, Moscoso remains optimistic that this work would not produce didactic answers but will rather leave people curious. She is hopeful viewers will leave the exhibition with a renewed interest in the world around them, in relation to the ways in which we understand limits and territories and with a desire to contribute to the production of more liberated futures.
The exhibition and we learn to keep the soil wet is on view at CARA (Center for Art, Research, and Alliances), New York, until June 25, 2023.