Driftless and the Floodplain
Opening October 13, 2012, 6:00–8:00 p.m.
On view during the Works in Progress festival, through October 27
Perhaps better known for its landlocked position in the heart of the Midwest, Iowa is rarely considered in light of its water-shaped physical features. Glaciation, flood, erosion, drought—each has shaped the Iowan landscape in seen and unseen ways. In their respective installations Driftless and the Floodplain, long-time artistic collaborators Elizabeth Boyne and Joshua Dumas unearth often unnoticed histories embedded in that landscape. Their installations re-contextualize Iowa’s environment, revealing the sites and secrets striated through its geological history.
Book artist and Center for the Book MFA student Elizabeth Boyne’s installation Driftless occupies the first half of PS1’s gallery space. This work closely examines three rivers that flow through northeast Iowa’s Driftless Area: the Wapsipinicon, the Volga, and the Upper Iowa. Bypassed by the last ice age, receding glaciers skirted around the northeast corner of Iowa, leaving its land untouched by glacial drift. Sediment and rock that have sat in the area for thousands of millennia have had the chance to slowly erode into hills, bluffs, and stretching vistas, a geological image that is not typically associated with the Midwest. Past journalists have even gone so far to describe the area as “Iowa’s Switzerland.”
Boyne's installation comprises three 4x8 foot sheets of handmade Japanese paper. Each sheet is treated with konn’yaku paste, a medium traditionally used to strengthen and waterproof Japanese paper. The paper is then painted with pigmented konn’yaku paste. These applications of paste buckle and shrink the paper, causing it to transform its shape, wrinkle, and form its own topography.
The paper is painted with close-up details of photographs of the above-mentioned rivers. This closeup look at the rivers’ shapes and patterns becomes a microcosmic snapshot of the larger bluffs and hills that form their surrounding landscape.
Elizabeth Boyne has most recently displayed her artists' books at the 15th Annual Book Project International in Marseille, France. She's exhibited in Seoul, San Francisco, Chicago, Cleveland, Florida and Iowa. Using handmade paper, letterpress printing, and traditional book forms, her recent work focuses on fragments of history found in Iowa's landscape.
In the second half of the gallery, Chicago-based artist and composer Joshua Dumas presents the Floodplain, a multichannel sound-and-video installation that explores the history of flooding in Iowa City from 1851–2008. By layering voices, field recordings, found sound, and music he composed for the piece, Dumas transforms diaries, newspaper accounts, and weather reports into an audio collage that recollects a disjointed oral history of flood. This soundscape broadcasts throughout the room at random intervals through multiple speakers to accompany an adjoining video installation. The sounds, stories and images create an abstract, fractured documentary that evokes the ghosts of floods -- a surreal monument to the city's relationship with its river.
Joshua Dumas is an artist and composer. He makes dance films (Mirrors Are Just Water Specified), writes semi-operas, scores films (Some Girls Never Learn, Red Rider's Lament), composes for theatre (Vintage Theatre Collective, the Plagiarists) and takes pictures (recent collaborations with Katie Hargrave, Carl Sweets, Kirk Bravender). http://quieterrors.com