site-specific installation, Sunken City, San Pedro, CA, exposed sedimentary dirt, sidewalk fragment, mineral oxide pigments, hydrated lime, aluminum. (2020)
curated by Renae Barnard, MFA
When I first conceptualized Breaking Ground, I imagined I would be breaking the surface of the earth in a place provided by someone else. The work would be about our strange alienation from the earth that lies hidden just under the surface of the city and the illusion of independence and permanence that comes with it. It would also be a way of complicating the immaterial abstraction of “property” with the very material act of manually digging and molding land that was not “mine.”
But, the pandemic necessitated a change of plans. The show could go on, but I would need to find my own place for the work. Where could I go in the age of Covid 19 to connect with the ground itself, when nature had “sent us all to our rooms”? And, how would the site change the work? Almost immediately, San Pedro’s Sunken City came to mind. Here, the land itself is sculpture, and this sculpture makes the precarity of the city and its dependence on the earth vividly clear.
Within this terrain, I chose a small perch of exposed earth, along the edge of an existing cliff, beside a slab of fallen sidewalk. From this point, I looked outward in all directions and marked the outline of my seated body. By locating the work on this unstable ground, and emphasizing the outline of my body facing outward, my act of digging out the earth beneath me became less about “grounding” myself to land I did not “own” and more about “breaking” – how I am “breaking”, how the environment around us is breaking, and how this moment marks a profound “breaking” rupture in the status quo. It became a way of internalizing the lessons of this breaking time and inviting others to do the same.