-SITE Santa Fe – Spring through July 31, 2023 —
Going with the Flow – the title of this exhibition uses the gerund ‘going’ instead of the command ‘go’ and puts we the viewers in the continuous present, always going with the flow. Go with the flow, we advise ourselves when we come up against difficult currents. Or more often, we tell other people ‘go with the flow’ when they are pushing too hard upstream (or against us?).
The subtitle “: Art, Actions, and Western Waters” describes the victim – water – and the illuminating art and actions that will scold a society of perpetrators who have brought on climate change. This is according to the curators, who in the text about show, say its title says “we must follow [water’s] lead and heeds its warnings.”
We, the viewers, may be compadres in the scolding and play along with the magic that these artists are shaking at the problem of water use in the American West. Or we can just look at the cool pictures Sharon Stewart has taken of the Pecos River, near her home in Mora County, and go with the flow.
We chose to walk – not drive – to the Santa Fe River in the backyard of the galleries on Canyon Road, and watch artist, Basia Irland, release ice blocks in the shape of books into the flowing river.
Irland calls this ice book project Ice Receding/Books Reseeding. The largest two books contained yellow and red flowers and native seed of four or so different plants that are still locally viable. Her intention it to launch the ice books and allow them to flow downstream, to melt and release the seeds and flowers within.
These books were cast in molds, semi-frozen, flowers and seeds added, and then refrozen. The small books were made by Irland’s team and cast in a smaller mold. When frozen, lines resembling text were carved in the block and dark seeds laid in the carved lines like ink. Water was flowed over the cast book and the piece refrozen before being carried to the river in a refrigerated box via truck. The energy cost of this project? The truck was a regular-size pickup, and the freezer smaller than a home freezer. The pieces were cast at SITE Santa Fe, less than a couple of miles away.
The seeds included where selected unanimously by three conservation groups that Irland consulted, and according to the text document about the show, the artist also collaborated with engineering students to add monitoring devises in the books to see how far and where the books traveled. No mention of the monitoring devises, but many motion-picture and still cameras were in use at the launch site on Sunday May 14. Enjoy the film.
In addition to the ice books, which were remarkably clear bobbing in the river, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo artist, Clarence Cruz, made a clay book embedded with cottonwood seeds and offered a Tewa blessing as he placed it gently in the current. It sunk out of sight immediately.
The smaller books bobbed in the water, stayed afloat but were quickly carried downstream. Have a look at the details, which were hard to see as the block books were traveling.
Where these seeds will end up is unknown. But the second of Irland’s large books was left on the river bank that we, the viewers, were trampling. Sun quickly began spreading out the seeds and rain came a few hours later.