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Badlands: The Book

Badlands: New Horizons in Landscape surveys a contemporary approach the landscape, continuing a lineage from the Impressionists to Ansel Adams to the Earth Artists to today. For the exhibition’s catalogue (distributed by The MIT Press), curator Denise Markonish and I wanted to create a kind of field guide for the exhibition, a book that you could hold in your hand while walking through the show. You can purchase the book in Hardware: The MASS MoCA Store or on Amazon.

The catalogue is divided into four sections—The Historians, The Explorers, The Activists & The Pragmatists, and The Aestheticists—and features essays by Denise, Ginger Strand, Gregory Volk, and Tensie Whelan and a foreword from MASS MoCA Director Joseph Thompson.

But the best part is that Denise interviewed each artist for the catalogue. After the jump are a few personal favorites.

So, yes, the project encourages people to “take ownership” of something they may not have felt was theirs. I like to think about ways in which ownership entails responsibility and care. On the bigger scale of how we treat the land, some people believe that ownership means the right to destroy, but in this work the adoption ceremony makes clear that ownership is a relationship of care, and possibly a burden of responsibility.

— Vaughn Bell on her personal biospheres

So, here is a short list of some of my favorite informants: foreign and outdated currency, scratch-off lottery tickets, vintage vacation postcards, slightly outdated computer graphics, stenciled detailing on cars and fingernails, assembly line paintings (the kind that you can buy on the boardwalk), Hieronymus Bosch, Northern Renaissance painting (I like the scenes in the background more than the religious narratives that are front and center), Shaker drawings, Warhol’s Do-It-Yourself pictures, mistake and poor quality commercial printing, magic eye books, and, of course, my genius artist friends.

— Melissa Brown on inspiration

The Center is fixated on the ground, which by itself means nothing, and is neutral. You might say we fertilize it with interpretive manure, growing, and eventually extracting meaning in the form of interpretations, which we convey to the public, who then make up their own minds about what it means, if anything.

— Matthew Coolidge, director of the Center For Land Use Interpretation, on how to simultaneously provoke and maintain neutrality

Many times I’ve been chased away from industrial sites, threatened with arrest, and questioned by various authorities.

— J. Henry Fair on sneaking around his sites

I was driving to New York from Connecticut when I saw this giant fake tree on the grounds of a rest stop. W hen I got closer and realized it was a cell phone transmission tower, I was blown away.

— Joseph Smolinski on how he came to the image of the Frankentree

I remember the first time I went to Yosemite, and it was almost impossible to believe what I was seeing. I was agog! It was sublime, but also hilarious! Every view was like a Sierra Club calendar picture or an Ansel Adams postcard. At one point, I became convinced that I had been there before and had just forgotten.

— Nina Katchadourian on the relationship between beauty and the natural world

Posted September 8, 2008 by Dan McKinley
Filed under BLOG, Design, Exhibitions
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