The Frontier: Post-Mortem (2011)

Curated by nicholasgoad
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This exhibition engages concepts of land, nationality, emigration and technology through five diverse artworks. I chose these works as representations of both the terrestrial and virtual frontier and as an exploration of a continued evolution of humankind's relationship to land and its ties to that land. "The Valley" is a video piece that features a lone man alienated in the vast and desolate American desert. Text appears on the screen describing the man’s desire to escape, while jump cuts, flares, and extreme long shots show the man enveloped by the terrain. These images are then juxtaposed with images of modernity intruding into the same geography. RVs, jeeps, and gas stations fill the void formerly occupied by the man. The expansive and ancient desert is invaded by symbols of American modernity. Still images of the land and shots of postcards are interspersed with video clips in a way that acts as a epitaph for the kitschy American West. The modernity that trespasses into "The Valley" proliferates in "Vagamundo: A Migrant’s Tale". After traversing a barren desert, the protagonist of Vagamundo is faced with the task of finding a place amidst the metropolis. "Vagamundo" is a participatory piece that puts the viewer in the role of an illegal immigrant video game character forced to fend for himself in Manhattan. Like the protagonist of "The Valley", "Vagamundo"’s video game character longed to escape from the American desert, only to face his next challenge in New York. "Vagamundo" illustrates the successive challenges faced by illegal immigrants, while making inquiry into nationalism, citizenship and a potentially exploitative global economy. Issues of borders and citizenship reach a global scale in "Permanent Transit". Through a video, audio and text collage of human migration, this artwork bombards the viewer with multiple narratives. These quicktime clips feature various countries and numerous people and incorporate ideas of settlement and home into the broader themes already established in this exhibit. "Permanent Transit" is observational as well as participatory as the viewer is invited to “remix” the video clips in random order. Human migration is again the subject of "The Texas Border", but this time from the perspective of law enforcement. This piece incorporates surveillance camera images of the Mexico border, and addresses the issue of civilian - orchestrated surveillance in relation to national borders as well as the incorporation of technology into the criminalization of immigrants. Varying perspectives are channeled through the work. "1.1Acre Flat Screen" follows would-be investors from New York as they obtain piece the American west. The artists access a land auction via eBay and purchase the land sight unseen in an effort to recoup a profit. The Internet, conventional mail and satellite technology are all utilized. Finally, a live auction transfers the ownership of the parcel. We follow the artists as they embark on a journey that incorporates various forms of information transfer all the while blurring the lines between “real” and virtual real estate. In these artworks, modernity and notions of the traditional frontier overlap in ways both compelling and entertaining. Highly visual works like "The Texas Border", "The Valley" and "Permanent Transit" rely heavily on images to raise questions in the mind of the viewer, while "Vagamundo" uses a game to inspire inquiry. "1.1 Acre Flat Screen" involves a longer narrative to explore land, technology, art exhibition and the west. All of these works examine our regard for the land under our feet and confront the ways we go about claiming and inhabiting it.

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