SITE on "Unsettled Landscapes"

Non-profit SITE Santa Fe has caught the attention of the global art world since its inception in 1995 for its series of innovative biennials that have included top contemporary artists from around the world. For the 2014 edition, SITE has re-imagined this biennial, radically rethinking its own model to create a new, innovative structure that will include a vision for continuity between biennials that will directly involve engagement with the community of Santa Fe.

Rechristened as SITElines, the new biennial focuses on contemporary art from the Americas, including big names as well as a focus on under recognized art. Unsettled Landscapes, which opened July 17, is the first in this new direction, bringing 45 artists from 16 countries with a focus on three themes; landscape, territory and trade. From the far reaches of the Canadian Arctic to the tropical climates hovering over the equator and down to the tip of South America, Unsettled Landscapes represents a diverse collection of artists who are influenced by their specific geography throughout North and South America.

Unsettled Landscapes artist map. Courtesy of SITElines.
The desert oasis of Santa Fe has attracted the creative community for generations: Georgia O’Keefe called it home, Bruce Nauman lives nearby and the city has become a Southwestern hub for contemporary art and craft. With artists living either full or part time in the city to create their work, Santa Fe also has a thriving gallery scene, balancing the city’s creative inspiration with artistic commerce. SITE Santa Fe, founded by gallery owner Laura Carpenter, has asserted itself as a leader in Santa Fe’s art community, supporting local artists as well drawing international artists to the city. The first biennial in 1995 was at the time the only international biennial in the United States, and since has brought artists like Takashi Murakami, Cai Guo-Qiang, Louise Bourgeois, Gregory Crewdson, Elizabeth Peyton, Maurizio Cattelan, Robert Gober and Vanessa Beecroft to the Southwest.
Using the notoriety it gained by creating the country’s first world class international biennial, SITE is turning its attention to the bigger picture, refocusing to convey a specific geographical view in a related program over the next six years. The SITElines biennials of 2014, 2016 and 2018 will be linked, celebrating the art coming out of the Americas.
Unsettled Landscapes, curated by independent curators Candice Hopkins, Lucia Sanroman, Janet Dees and SITElines director Irene Hoffman, sets the stage for exciting new programming in between biennials. This edition includes work that reconsiders the idea of land, toying with ideas like how it is conveyed both historically and at present, migration from one landscape to another, fluctuating borders, historical links to land, environmentalism, and living off the land as a resource.
Blue Curry, S.S.s., 2014. Courtesy of the artist.
Artist Blue Curry’s piece, S.S.s., was chosen as the exhibition’s catalog image, embodying Unsettled Landscapes with a live feed of the grandiose tourist cruise ships that flood the harbor in his native Nassau, Bahamas each day. Projected within the museum, the feed will show firsthand the thriving tourism industry that has drastically changed the face of the Bahamas over the past 30 years. Custom flags will be raised outside of the museum each time a new ship enters the harbor.
Jamison Chas Banks, Retour des Cendres, Vol. 1 (return of the ashes), 2014. Courtesy of the artist.
Santa Fe based artist Jamison Chas Banks’ installation, Retour des Cendres, Vol.1 (return of the Ashes) was commissioned especially for the biennial, and delves into the relationship between several historical incidents involving land, representing conflict with “American’s favorite past time -- baseball. The Louisiana Purchase, Napoleon's exile, the exile of the Cherokee in Oklahoma, and Banks' own Cherokee-Cayuga-Seneca family history are rendered into two baseball teams -- the Exiles and the Purchasers, detailing relations of acquisition, condemnation and populating new lands.
Jamison Chas Banks, Retour des Cendres, Vol. 1 (return of the ashes), 2014. Courtesy of the artist.
Gianfranco Foschino’s beautiful installation No Man’s Land is an unending journey through the incredible and rarely visited, Guaitecas and Chonos archipelagos off the southern coast of his native Chile. Shot with a camera on a small motorboat, the video, Fluxus, is shown on a loop, taking viewers on an uninterrupted journey throughout the remote and magical landscape.
Gianfranco Foschino, Fluxus, 2010. Courtesy of the Michael Strum Gallery, Stuttgart.
Jason Middlebrook, Your General Store, 2014. Courtesy of SITElines.
Your General Store repurposes a shipping container into the shell for a replica of a 19th Century general store. The piece, by Hudson, NY based Jason Middlebrook, brings visitors back in time to the early days of Santa Fe, when the Southwest was populated by settlers seeking a better life. The store, stocked with everyday items and artworks, both designed by his artist friends, operates on a barter-only system. Middlebrook draws a parallel to the present, by using an element of sustainable architecture, the shipping container, which has become a current trend in green design.
Agnes Denes, Wheatfield- A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan, 1982. Courtesy of Public Art Fund. Photograph by John McGrail.
A powerful historical piece that embodies the theme of land as a resource is a group of documentary photographs from Agnes Denes’ Wheatfield- A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan from 1982. Commissioned by the Public Art Fund, Denes, along with community volunteers, transformed an urban plot just below the Twin Towers into a golden wheat field, creating a beautiful contrast of a rural landscape within the concrete jungle of New York City. Denes and volunteers farmed the city land until harvest, when the wheat was used to feed the community.
Anna Bella Geiger, O Pão Nosso de cada dia (Our Daily Bread), 1978. Courtesy of Henrique Faria Fine Art.
An artist influential during Brazil’s NeoConcrete movement of the early 1960s, Anna Bella Geiger’s O Pão Nosso de cada dia (Our Daily Bread), is another piece that ties history into the exhibition.  The six framed postcards show images of the artist eating regular white bread transforming it into the shape of South America, along with a bread bag. Created in 1978, the piece calls attention to Brazil’s hunger problem and instability during the 1970s.
SITElines’ Unsettled Landscapes will continue until January of 2015, paired with a roster of ongoing events like screenings, talks, performances and symposiums. The eclectic accompanying program will satiate the rich artists’ community in Santa Fe and visitors alike, creating a thread that will continue over the next six years.
Article written by Lori Zimmer