Spring 2015 Education Program Perspective — Mary Elizabeth Hogan, Student
Mary Elizabeth Hogan
Spring 2015 Student
I am interested in definition and the process of defining in regard to place and orientation. The efforts to explain one’s position require a similar process—delineating boundaries, difference, accounting for location in relation to otherness, and situating oneself between origin and destination. Through the use of text, performance, and collaboration, I practice making flexible formulaic inquiries such as What is this? or, Where am I? to facilitate indeterminacy and reevaluate where determinacy fails.
Why are you interested in creating work in response to a place/site?
Don’t you think that by establishing artificial barriers we deliver a blow to the idea of limitless thought? By limiting our movement forward, we facilitate moving backwards.
I wrote down this quote while re-watching Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972). It addresses my fascination with form (formlessness) and place (placelessness) and the responsibility I feel to state and articulate my position formulaically, impose boundaries, separate, and consider things as apart. I find site-responsive and site-specific work demands a close study of both form and place, and allows for another type of translation to occur.
What is one impression that you took away from this experience?
At the FOR-SITE property, I had the opportunity to rethink the patterns I choose to notice and be affected by—the most significant being the passage of time. While exploring the property and its surrounding area with the expert contributions of geologist David Lawler, and local historian Hank Meals, I was introduced to another way of looking, measuring, and understanding a site. This meant evaluating geological landmarks, seeking out significant grinding rocks vital to the Nisenan people that first occupied the area, crawling through drainage tunnels left over from hydraulic mining, and trekking up a disintegrating mountainside to see from a new and quickly disappearing vantage. These experiences impressed upon me the importance of accruing your own non-standardized data from which to measure the little histories that frame the forming present.
In what way has this experience affected or complemented your practice?
I have recently been experimenting with different types of text written for performance, i.e. scripts for situations, short plays, speeches, and open letters. The site itself became a significant player in some of the written work I produced on-site. The collection of mindful and intelligent participants provided useful feedback and criticism. I think the full effect of my time spent at FOR-SITE will continue to influence my thinking as I work to reflect on the strata of substantial moments.
What were the benefits of working in the land as opposed to the classroom?
It was a unique experience to reimagine a classroom setting using the natural perimeter imposed by the land. With Mia’s guidance, we were able to apply a fluid pedagogical framework that focused on open critical discussion and exploratory conversation and fit our activities and meal-making. I often find that classroom settings can become limiting, and that to access most subjects requires a level of research and dedication best sought outside of the academic institution. The FOR-SITE property provided a significant opportunity to move beyond these limits. The land itself became an archive to reference, a space of respite and reflection, and material for response. And, you can’t watch a blood moon lunar eclipse from a classroom.
Were there any unexpected challenges?
I think that any challenge that occurred was physical, but it was the kind of challenge that only invites more determination. For example, hoisting yourself up a rope to reach the top of a black oak, or navigating back to camp by headlamp avoiding trees and poison oak. We also had a fantastic host and support team in [Program Director] Jackie von Treskow and [Site Manager] Joseph Meade, who addressed every possible concern, and became vital, thoughtful contributors in all of our endeavors.
Describe the artwork or project that emerged (or is still emerging) from your experience.
One of the works I developed was called Transitu: What if boundaries only appeared when you summoned them? (making landmarks for when you need them). I collected small rocks along the route I would take from my tent to our workspace, painted them with phosphorescent pigment, and placed them back in the land. On our final evening, I read an essay (of the same title) and led a flashlight-lit night walk along my chosen path. As the flashlights illuminated the ground, the painted rocks collected a charge and took on a ghostly glow. For the rest of the evening, the path remained illuminated, guiding people through dark. I was interested in creating landmarks that only existed through maintained interaction, memory, and re-illumination from a collective effort.