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Ellen Jantzen, Holding a Mirror up to Progress

Affiliated events:

Memorial Day Weekend
Closing Event Schedule

Sunday, May 27, 4:00-7:00 pm

4:00 p.m.
Carol Lafayette Talk
Learn about the origins and workings of the interactive installation
atta by our featured artist from Texas,folowed by Q&A.

5:00 p.m.
Heidi Hensley Solo

Join us for an unusual performance by this well-known Athens' area musician

With warm-up by the new group: Bluewing
a vocal trio who sing three part harmonies, accompanied by guitar
(Bluewing is Jenny deRevere, Amber Fetner and Jean Spencer)

6:00 p.m.
BBQ on the porch:
with donations from Trumps, Earthfare, and the Daily Co-op

Suggested donation for the concert and meal: $6.00 - $9.00


Saturday, May 19
7:00-9:00 p.m.

Screening of Cabin Field (39 min)
a film by Laura Kissel

and two shorts, Big Twig by Jay Critchley (9 min)
and Urban Life by Marco Villani of Italy (7 min)

Laura Kissel's experimental, non-fiction film explores the site of Cabin Field, a mile-long stretch of agricultural land in Crisp County, Georgia. Through the memories of land owners, farmers, residents and agricultural laborers past and present, "Cabin Field" examines evidence both visible and submerged, material and ephemeral. It will be preceded by two shorts: Big Twig, by Jay Critchley takes a provocative look at Boston’s decade-old mega-highway project, known to residents as 'The Big Dig.' Villani's Urban Life is a visually sumptuous and poetic piece featuring stunning contemporary Italian architecture. In the artist's words it "
focuses on urban life as an organic unit in which elements of architecture, urban politics, human aggregates and psychic elements converge." (More on these fascinating films can be found on the artists' websites, just click on their names above.)

Complimentary Popcorn and Soda!
Suggested donation: $3.00 - $7.00

Sunday, May 13
9:00 pm
In a Maze/On a Farm:
Readings, Reflections, and Questions

A performance with discussion featuring:
Chris Cuomo, Denise Posnak, Stephanie Allen & a Chorus of Others. 

Have you heard it said that we are all just like "ants in a maze"? Created specifically in response to the current ATHICA exhibit, this work-in-progress by a philosopher, a dancer, a vegan musicologist, and a chorus of commentators will explore the meanings of that fear, and its many implications.
As featured Ruburbs installation artist Carol LaFayette's work atta illustrates, the lives of ants on a farm are more interesting, autonomous, and varied than our stereotypes indicate. Tunnels lead to various chambers filled with other bodies, challenges, and goodies. Squirming through our own path can be a good way to create more pleasant spaces, or to weaken the integrity of structures that ought to cave. You may leave this evening's event feeling a bit more informed, and perhaps even a bit more optimistic, about life in your maze.
Chris Cuomo is a performance artist, activist, and Professor of Philosophy who has published in the field of ethics and the environment. She is also Director of the UGA Institute for Women’s Studies.
Denise Posnak is a choreographer, performer, and teacher who is currently a visiting lecturer in the UGA department of dance. She has performed and worked in California, the Midwest, and Hungary.
Stephanie Allen is a vocalist and a graduate student in UGA's Hugh Hodgson School of Music who has carved a niche for herself as a Bjork scholar.
Suggested donation: $6.00 - $12.00

  Saturday, May 5
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

The Athens-area affiliate of Habitat for Humanity and the E3 Sculptors use scale models of four different phases of a Habitat home to explain the infrastructure and ecological cost of creating a Habitat subdivision and the implications of the additional people in the county. Athens' area sculptor and arts organizer Lawrence Stueck and his band of Athens Academy students are the E3 Sculptors.

Saturday, March 31st, 2007 - Sunday, May 27th, 2007
Ruburbs & Other Spaces In Between:
Land Use and Environmentalism
Curator: Quinn Gorman | Assistant Curator: Sage Rogers

In his landmark essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness,” environmental historian William Cronon begins with an intentionally provocative statement: “the time has come to rethink wilderness.” I've always felt, however, that what Cronon's essay really suggests is that the time has come to rethink the broader parameters of environmentalism, and to expand what we consider part of environmental advocacy. It was once a rather unfortunate truth that American environmentalism suffered an unproductive and excessive preoccupation with the limited realms of either the “pristine” (wilderness) or the critically damaged (the Superfund site). In the last several decades, however, there has been increasing recognition among environmental scholars and advocates that this constrained focus does us a disservice, that it tends to fetishize the absence of human influence as a starting point (or end goal) for environmental action and relegates far too much of the world's landscapes to the category of the “lost cause”—already tainted by our human hands and second-class concerns as far as their potential for mitigating the obvious environmental damage of which we are obviously capable.

What a new generation of environmentalists has realized, and what this exhibit explores, is that “nature” is a much more open concept than an uncritical focus on “pure” nature allows, and that a multiplicity of approaches exist for addressing a concern over its destruction. Ruburbs & Other Spaces In Between: Land Use and Environmentalism is a look at those oft-neglected spaces, both geographically and conceptually, in present-day environmentalism. Rather than focusing attention on either wilderness as an ideal or industrial wastelands as an indictment of human influence, the twelve artists' works brought together here illustrate the potentially productive interweaving of human and nonhuman, culture and nature, development and conservation. They also suggest how we inevitably shape landscapes by identifying desirable visions of “nature” and making decisions in their pursuit.

This exhibit takes as a given that environmental concern need not fixate on the distant or the catastrophic. What is more useful is a perspective that encourages what sustainability advocate Wendell Berry calls “kindly use”: a perspective that recognizes that “the question isn't to use or not to use but rather how to use.”

The titular word “ruburb” takes its inspiration from featured artist Carol LaFayette, who uses the term to describe the land in Texas that she monitored for atta, the interactive multimedia installation that forms the centerpiece of the show. Coined in a 1983 article from Time Magazine, “ruburb” is used to refer to an area neither purely rural, nor purely urban—a place where people go who want both the amenities of a city and the green space of the country. (Though the dating of neologisms is notoriously imprecise.) Pronounced like suburb, ruburb is often used in a pejorative sense, suggesting as it does the encroachment of sprawl into rural areas. LaFayette's own land is a ruburb in the sense that it is an oasis of sorts, surrounded on all sides by development. She says that “it's difficult to reconcile ideas about 'nature'—the cinematic code, the exotic kind on the Discovery Channel—with this liminal zone,” yet she rejects the notion that it is less environmentally productive, in any essential sense, than more celebrated, large-scale open spaces. As she herself points out, nature is less subdued here than it might seem, and if it were not isolated as it is by barriers both physical and ideological, the land could function as a vital wildlife corridor within the ecosystem of which it is a part.
To demonstrate the vitality of the space, LaFayette decided to play off of the plans of a company developing “smart dust”—miniscule, remote spyware— to build a “global nervous system.”

Lafayette counters, “before developing a global nervous system, let's develop a local nervous system, one that might reveal this land's subtle interconnections.” To that end, LaFayette installed numerous devices of her own— setting up wireless motion-sensitive video cameras, fixing waterproof cameras to tree stumps in a flood plain, and eventually (and most ambitiously), using radar imaging to construct a 3D visual of an underground colony of leafcutter ants (atta texana).

As her project developed, LaFayette concentrated more and more on the ants, and came to see their symbiotic relationship with the environment as a model for our own. It is a symbiotic interaction: the ants gather leaves from their surroundings for use in growing an edible fungus, and while the fungus needs the ants to propagate, the ants likewise need the fungus for sustenance. The ants make use of what is given in the landscape, yet in constructing their extensive series of tunnels, a fungus factory of sorts, alter and shape that landscape to their own ends as well. Her installation mimics this, and features two video projections, one on the wall and one on a “rock screen” that was custom-crafted of local granite. Both projections display images based on viewer input, the wall screen displaying various video sequences of her land in accord with the spectator's manipulation of knobs on a control panel, and the floor recombining them at random to allow “painting” a new landscape in real-time video. Because of the latter randomness, and because the viewer is left to discover the installation's controls without instructions, it also highlights the interplay between control and the lack of it. atta's implications are twofold: it allows the spectator to witness the resilience of nature in the face of development, challenging the notion of an environment subdued by humankind, while simultaneously demonstrating our own involvement in forming the very landscape that resists us.
atta also has something to say about the place of technology in environmentalism. Though some see technological approaches to the environment as a distraction from the project of cultivating environmental values, we are undeniably a technological culture, and one might argue that such a strong predilection should be put to good use rather than simply derided. For LaFayette's part, she wanted to combine the substantive usefulness of technology with its appeal to those who have grown up to love and take its presence for granted: “I saw this as a digital drama for people who really like technology. I wanted to speak the language of high technology.” Putting questions of technology's appeal to our contemporary culture aside, it also allowed LaFayette to approach her subject without being destructive. She recounts how other ant colonies have been modeled by pouring molten lead into them and then extracting the resulting shape. This killed the ants, of course. Yet Lafayette’s radar imaging process, as an alternative, reveals the falsehood of categorically considering technology to be anti-environmental.

We're very pleased to be able to include such an accomplished artist—one whose work can be found in the collections of such prestigious institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Printed Matter, and Microcinema International—in our show. (
More on atta, including images, can be found at: www.clafayette.com/atta/attamain.htm.)

If atta encourages us to acknowledge our desire for, and ability to shape, our environment, Bay Area artist Gary Carlos’s ceramic tile installation Dessertification suggests our possible motivations for doing so. Up close, the 187 tiles that comprise the piece feature bird’s-eye view images of agricultural land—lot lines at right angles and circles formed by irrigation apparatuses. Yet when we step back, the controlled boundaries of farming coalesce to yield an image of the purpose to which this particular use of land is intended: two young children, looming over a quite desirable mountain of donuts. “These landscapes look back at us trying to reveal some message for today,” Carlos asserts. “It is this view from above that best illustrates our world, not as a series of boundary lines, but as a complex, fragile living entity.” Carlos's work has been included in the 2006 NCECA Invitation Exhibition “The New Utilitarian” and in the book Suburban Escape: The Art of California Sprawl, published by the San Jose Museum of Art.

Ellen Jantzen, the featured artist of Art and Science Collaborations, Inc. (ASCI) for the month of March, also concerns herself with boundaries, and particularly with the piercing thereof. Positioning her camera at the boundary lines between landscapes natural and man-made, fecund and visibly barren, she uses a mirror to capture both simultaneously. (See image on top on this page.) Often these photographs show us that which has been excluded: we see not only the picturesque, but the troubling as well, which has been silently sneaking up from behind all along. And of course, as Jantzen notes, “I (as the documentarian) am located between these two views […], in the image (sandwiched between realities) yet not visible.” Our tendency to take neatly framed scenes for reality makes the experience of viewing these photographs a jarring one, but one which can encourage us to acknowledge that that which is not seen is not necessarily that which is not there.

Showing how our penchant for idealized landscapes can be a positive force, Steven Bleicher’s Route 66 Series displays the way America, a physical space, becomes Americana, a cultural place (as charmingly revealed in the recent Pixar animation feature Cars). Taking images of America’s highway to end all highways, and then coupling them with maps, souvenirs, and other mementos, Bleicher who has taight at numerous universities throughout the south, highlights the meanings we impose on the environment. He does this in a manner that, though containing elements of kitsch, also celebrates our affection for the places we visit: “My work is about reminiscence and remembrance. After any event, all that remains is the memory. It’s about our human need to capture a fleeting moment and preserve a space in time.”

The ephemerality of such a moment and the malleability of such a space inform Bryan Hiott’s multimedia installation Gettysburg, part of an ongoing project that examines culturally significant places in the United States. Upon arriving in Gettysburg, Hiott found a complicated historical legacy:

I began my work with a walking tour of the battlefield monuments, referring occasionally to the National Park Service map. However, along the periphery, my understanding of the past became dislodged as I encountered contemporary, commercially manufactured forms that seemed to function as monuments in their own right. I searched for a way to reconcile my understanding of the past with those present day elements. […] It seemed likely that the legacy of Gettysburg was to be found not so much among battlefield monuments to the heroic dead as among contemporary forms in close proximity.

As a result, the postcards in Hiott’s tourist-kiosk-for-a-more modern-world include such indicators of cultural value as “Gettysburg Battlefield” (though the battle now fought there is soccer), the “Car Dealership Monument” (where construction debris piles up as a monument to industry’s wake), the “Cul-de-Sac Monument” (which needs no explanation), and the “Storm Drain Monument,” sure to draw substantial tourism revenue now that its understated existence has been brought to the light of day. (See Gettysburg Football Sled Monument at the bottom of this page.) Hiott's riff on the ubiquitous tourist video likewise puts Gettysburg's sights on display, and conveys a similarly dissonant relationship between past and present, idealism and pragmatism.
Like Bleicher’s work, Hiott’s emphasizes the stories we tell ourselves about the land and the meanings we impose upon it, yet in doing so it suggests how our stories do not always illustrate the best of our traits, or hide the worst of them. Hiott received his M.F.A. from Parsons New School of Design in 2006.

At first glance, established artist and author Karen Hennessee’s Tree Triptych—her small digital prints of windblown, uprooted trees on Georgia’s Jekyll Island, mounted on wood and complete with area sand—might seem to make an aesthetic ideal of human absence. Indeed, the work is appealing for the simplicity and quiet it conveys, and the natural power it suggests. Yet what often goes unnoticed in such circumstances is Hennessee’s astute observation of our own role in allowing such a scene to exist as such. Someone—a park administrator or property owner—has decided “to leave this ‘unnatural’ natural landscape alone.” For her, “the haunting devastation and yet beauty of these trees challenges the cliches of human influence and habitation, and the overlapping intersections of use and neglect.” Like so many of the works included in this exhibit, “Tree Triptych” refuses to ignore the fundamental imbrication of human and nonhuman, the inevitability that all places are somehow “spaces in between.”

Internationally exhibiting visual, performance, and conceptual artist Jay Critchley approaches environmentalism with a nod and a wink. His multimedia work The Big Twig asks the question, “How to compensate for the annual 350,000 metric tons of pollution produced by Boston’s Big Dig mega-highway project?” His answer: 12.5 million carbon-filtering trees, which, with 250,000 acres needed at $10,000 an acre, would cost $25 million, .0015% of the projected $15 billion Big Dig price tag. The Big Twig injects the practicality of environmental concern into the modus operandi of public works planning. (It is also documented on his site, www.bigtwig.org. where you can even download bigtwig cellphone ringtones!)

Taking the opposite approach—displaying not the alternative but rather the epitome of planning excess—Critchley’s Martucket Eyeland Resort & Theme Park proposes a floating, “Las Vegas-style, family-orientated vacationland” to be anchored between three of the 130 turbines of the planned Nantucket Sound Wind Farm. This potential tourist mecca will feature such highlights as “Ye Olde Cape Cod Mall & Gambling Casino, and an energy park featuring wind, nuclear and oil drilling.” Daring regulators to give his own proposal the same lack of oversight he believes they gave the wind farm project, Critchley submitted an official application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Martucket Eyeland was awarded a Special Citation from the Boston Society of Architects in 2006. There has been no word from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

If Critchley’s work interrogates the world of land use planning on a large scale, and with a critical force appropriate to the scope of the projects it critiques, the selections that comprise Cheryl Gilge’s series Negotiating Spaces Part 2: House/Home take a more subdued approach. Beginning with site sketches from a mail-order catalog of single-family tract homes, Gilge, who is an M.F.A. candidate at the University of California–Riverside, has extracted the houses themselves, leaving only the landscaping that would have surrounded them. Rather than prompting a desire for “pure” nature, however, Gilge’s images suggest its impossibility. Here, the color green, the patron color of the environmental movement, becomes not so much the index of a natural Other, but rather its stand-in. Transforming from ground to figure, the landscaping here becomes another commodity, another desire, another potential land use that will be applied to a construction site in the same way that green dabs of paint are applied to paper.

Local artist Jenn Manzella, who is presently finishing her Masters thesis at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art, makes paper out of such landscaping choices, particularly those which are recognizably southern. Manzella uses kudzu—the invasive species originally brought here for erosion control, and perhaps best known by non-Southerners from R.E.M.’s Murmur album cover—to construct Rising Stack and Suspended Thread, towers of hand-made kudzu paper that, with their square sheets chaotically sewn together at irregular angles with waxed linen thread, suggest both control and disorder simultaneously. Her third piece in this exhibit, 36 Suspended Paths, is made of okra harvested from a friend’s garden. And while it therefore doesn’t carry with it suggestions of invasiveness and the ultimate unpredictability of our land use choices, it nevertheless illustrates the unexpected productiveness of the conversion from natural to man-made object, and the inevitable incompleteness of such a transformation.

Terri Dilling’s Pavement series is similarly fashioned from a combination of human and nonhuman elements. Beginning with photographs of weeds growing up through cracks in pavement, Dilling used litho roll-up and monotype printmaking techniques—running actual weeds through the press in the process—to create her images. Flower-shaped silhouettes overlay the cracked surface, suggesting, according to the artist, something “beautiful and ugly at the same time,” and revealing “an intersection point for the individual, the city and the natural world.” To be able to see such an intersection in such oppositional terms, and to find value in the more complete vision of the urban environment it conveys, is to acknowledge again that all places—even the city, which we consider to be one of the poles of the landscape spectrum—is a “space in between.”

The other artist whose work deals more specifically with the urban landscape is Marco Villani. Villani hails from Genova, Italy and has exhibited widely in Europe as well as the US. He describes his short video Urban Life as “a video which focuses on urban life as an organic unit in which elements of architecture, urban politics, human aggregates and psychic elements converge.” We often ignore the ecology of cities, yet Villani’s work here doesn’t so much suggest that we understand the relationship between human life and nature as one characterized by simile, or even metaphor, but rather identity: our cities are ecosystems. As the work of other artists in the exhibit also show, the touch of humankind does not banish “nature,” however we might understand it; the touch itself is a product of nature, even if the new forms of complexity and unpredictability our culture introduces makes this difficult to see.

It is perhaps fitting that we end by coming back from the urban pole to a “space in between” that no doubt plays a vital role in our environmental debates. This space will be on the minds of many of this exhibit’s viewers as soon as they hear the title Ruburbs: the ever-villanous suburb. Quebecois artist Catherine Plaisance, who has exhibited work around Canada and founded the performance collective Les Fermières Obsédées, reminds us that however useful it might be to imagine the possibilities of land use for good, the arguably most popular “space in between” can be quite a nightmare. The two pieces we have selected from her manipulated digital image series Le desert—Petites catastrophes et autres débordements (The desert—small catastrophes and other excesses) both define our sad state of affairs and predict the consequences of it. Symbiose depicts the suburban landscape as one of superficial culture and superficial nature: lawns are strewn with the possessions by which we define ourselves – herds of gas grills and cheap plastic lawn furniture—and nature has been diminished to the point where the only signs we see of it are the green of the excessively manicured lawns and a collection of pink flamingo lawn ornaments. Tourbillon d'inconscience, however, offers us at least some satisfaction as a similar landscape of pre-fabricated homes and green lawns are swept up by an out-of-control cyclone composed of shrubbery pushed to its breaking point. If the current situation is unacceptable in some of our eyes, Plaisance’s cyclone at least allows us to look forward to the resurgence of nature that has a tendency to occur when we assume we can somehow get outside of it, and escape the “spaces in between.”

When taken as a whole, this exhibit does not so much circumscribe the proper boundaries of environmental behavior, as warn against doing so with excess stridency. This does not mean that we should abdicate the responsibility to identify good and bad, desirable and undesirable, environmental and anti-environmental, but it does suggest that we are often counterproductive when we foreclose on innovative ways of thinking about our place in the world. That place is not a simple one to understand, nor a simple one to debate, and as new threats to the environment emerge, we need to be able to adapt to new ways of addressing them. The potential threat of not doing so is further isolation from the environment that sustains us, and an unintentional exacerbation of the problem we set out to address in the beginning.

—Quinn Gorman, Curator
with editorial assistance by Director Lizzie Zucker Saltz

About the Curators:

Quinn Gorman is a writing instructor at the University of Georgia and Athens Technical College. He earned his M.A. in English from the University of Nevada, Reno's Literature & Environment program, where he studied rhetorical theory and environmental politics. He recently returned from a stint as a visiting lecturer at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, during which time he presented at several Romanian and international conferences dealing with American Studies. He has also been published in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment, and will have an article included in the book Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, and Nature, forthcoming (2008) from SUNY Press. This is his debut curatorial effort.

Sage Rogers, is a former a board member of ATHICA. She co-curated our 2006 exhibit, Neither Here Nor There: Perspectives On Homelessness with Sunny Taylor. She has a bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from UGA, and will be attending graduate school in the Fall to pursue a masters in Museum Studies. She plans to focus on cultural production and ways of using museums for positive social change.

Curators’ Note:
We would like to thank our sponsors, the volunteers who gave their time for installation of the artwork, the various media outlets and local business who have helped with publicity, and the family and friends who gave us their support in seeing this show through from the initial idea to the final product. Without all of their help, the exhibition in its present form would not have been possible.

Director’s note:
Words cannot convey how impressed I am by this pair of curators! The enormous effort they have brought to this project—from coordinating the installation artists’ visits and garnering local businesses support to handling international artist communications—should earn them a huge pat on the back from all in the Northeast Georgia community and beyond. I also wish to applaud the sensitive and intelligent approach they took to this complicated and often politically-charged subject. It was a lucky day for ATHICA that we happened upon debut curator Quinn Gorman for this exhibit, as the depth of knowledge he brings to this catalog essay will be enormously helpful to viewers who may be navigating the subject for the first time (as I was!). Thanks too for Sage Roger’s eagerness to be involved in yet another ambitious ATHCA exhibit right before her departure for graduate school. We wish her bon voyage and will miss her. I would also like to thank featured artist Carol Lafayette & Brian Hiott for traveling long distances to share their visions with us, as well as the artists for putting out their own money to ship their work from afar so that we can enjoy them. This especially applies to Gary Carlos, whose sophisticated, gorgeous and impressive Dessertification piece is also very heavy! He was willing to ship it from California, for which we are grateful. He is offering a tile to anyone who can help the artist with these expenses at the level of $150. (If you are interested we will be happy to provide you contact information).
As we move into our fifth year we are kicking off a Key Supporters Campaign to find individuals & businesses who want to help keep our doors unlocked! I would like to thank inugural donor Suzi Wong and for this marvelous idea! Their daughter Sonja Rasula is our March sponsor, in honor of her birthday, and friends and art patrons, Kelly Goode and Mark Menlove are our May sponsors If you would like to be an ATHICA Key Supporter, please emal info@athica .org or call 208-1613.
—Lizzie Zucker Saltz

affiliated events

Sub-Division (Date TBA)
The Athens-area affiliate of Habitat for Humanity and the E3 Sculptors use scale models of four different phases of a Habitat home to explain the infrastructure and ecological cost of creating a Habitat subdivision and the implications of additional people in the county.
Suggested donation: $5.00 - $7.00

In a Maze/On a Farm: Readings, Reflections, and Questions by Chris Cuomo & friends.
Sunday, May 13, 7:00-9:00 pm
Cuomo is a performance artist, activist, the Director of the UGA Institute for Women’s Studies and Professor of Philosophy. In her words: “Art engaging nature reveals our own natures/cultures anew. Tunnels lead to various chambers filled with other bodies, challenges, and goodies. Squirming through our own path can be a good way to create more pleasant spaces, or to weaken the integrity of structures that ought to cave.”
Expect the unexpected!
Suggested donation: $6.00 - $12.00

Screening of Cabin Field, a film by Laura Kissel and Big Twig, a short by Jay Critchley
Saturday, May 19, 7:00-9:00 pm
This experimental, non-fiction film explores the site of Cabin Field, a mile-long stretch of agricultural land in Crisp County, Georgia. Through the memories of land owners, farmers, residents and agricultural laborers past and present, "Cabin Field" examines evidence both visible and submerged, material and ephemeral. To be preceded by the short film Big Twig, by Jay Critchley, which takes a provocative look at Boston’s mega-highway project, the Big Dig.
Complimentary Popcorn and Soda!
Suggested donation: $3.00 - $7.00

Sunday, May 27, 4:00-7:00 pm
Closing Day Events TBA

This exhibit is an Athens' Greenfest event.

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