Spring 2015 Education Program Perspective — Mia Feuer, Instructor
In what way(s) did you incorporate the site into the structure of and inspiration for your class?
When I was offered a chance to teach this course, I knew I had to come explore the land in person before really being able to construct a syllabus. I knew that the region had a rich history with mining and extraction, and that was a topic I wanted to focus on. After visiting Malakoff Diggins and Empire Mine I knew those were two places I wanted to take the class, and began to build the structure off of that. I was also very inspired by the trees on the FOR-SITE property and wanted to create a way for the class to interact with them in a unique way. This led to the facilitated tree climbing workshop that provided everyone with a magical opportunity to gain a new perspective of the land from way up inside a tree.
Why are you interested in creating work in response to a place/site?
In 2007, I moved to the West Bank in occupied Palestine. My time in this conflict-ridden territory had a profound effect on my practice. It was one of the first times I saw how an entire place can embody tragedy and pain within its structures and landscapes. This ignited an ongoing relationship with place/site that has taken my sculptural research to the toxic tar sand strip mines of northern Alberta, to the Suez Canal during the first wave of the Egyptian Revolution, to an Arctic Circle sailing expedition during the season of the midnight sun, to the disappearing bayous off the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, to an upcoming visit to Iran.
In what way has this experience affected or complemented your practice?
Before last year I had never been to the California. Teaching this class gave me a chance to explore amazing parts of the state that I now call home. But really, the entire experience—including the impression of a 50,000 year old leaf [class participant] Garth Fry found inside of a rock at Malakoff Diggins, to the blood moon eclipse we all slept together beneath, to the very in-depth analysis of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, to [class participant] Mary Hogan’s late night walk with flashlights and glowing rocks, to the brilliant guests, to reading poetry about plastic while hanging 80 feet up in a tree, to seeing the waxy red flesh of a Manzanita for the first time—were just a few of the experiences I take with me from this class.
What were the benefits of working in the land as opposed to the classroom?
The land allowed for the group to really achieve an openness—not only with one another, but with the topics being discussed. The class was able to respond directly to the land, as opposed to attempting to consider concepts like the Anthropocene, extraction, dark ecology, geological time and the origins of materials while sitting in a classroom. There is something very visceral and raw about gathering around a rock or a fire.
Were there any unexpected challenges?
Not really— [Site Manager] Joe Meade and [Program Director] Jackie von Treskow did a wonderful job making sure every detail and every question was figured out. The purchase of the food was perhaps the toughest job and required an immense amount of time making sure every ingredient for every meal was purchased and brought. But in the end, there was never a crisis—it all worked out perfectly.