[-empyre-] Introducing Christina McPhee

Christina McPhee naxsmash at mac.com
Tue Feb 9 17:25:54 AEDT 2016

Thank you, Renate. I think this is the first time I’ve ever been a ‘guest’ (after a lot of time as a moderator). 

Maybe in the spirit of the ‘ignorant schoolmaster’ thought i am far from being anyone’s teacher, I’d like to help us think about ‘migration’ and ‘displacement’ in different registers.

I was born to ‘migration” in a two-fold sense— one, that my family left a world of cousins and aunts, friends, sun, city, mountains and ocean for a  stark place on the great plains when I was seven;  two, a result of one,  I grew up with a basic self understanding as one who lived in a kind of exile and a longing for return— and the perennial dilemma that no return is possible, only the narrative around returns.  I became fascinated with stories of immigrants and displaced people, I devoured young adult novels about early 19th century tenement life on the Lower East Side (“Hester Street”) … I stumbled upon the “Diary of Ann Frank” and so discovered through those pages the actual fact of the Holocaust about which I had been totally ignorant until the age of nine… My father was an historian of European immigration on the Great Plains— and our family talk at night was cycling, at dinner around a round table, through themes of displacement and resilience, of territorial war and xenophobias, of genocide and loss. Outside by day, an apparent emptiness of sky and prairie seemed marked by  invisible runes, as if the land itself denoted a secret language, you could catch a glimpse if you watched carefully—. Born to and born from migration,  I have sought knowledge and wisdom in  works of so many artists dealing with exile, displacement, alienation and tenacity.  Some of these artists include, to mention but a few— 

Chantal Ackerman  / News From Home  https://www.criterion.com/films/20978-news-from-home
Multiplicity (Stephano Boeri et al) / Solid Sea   (installation) http://stefanoboeri.net/?p=2432
Rebecca Prichard / Dream Pill  (theatre) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kLutSeF0ZE
Diane Glancy  / Pushing the Bear (novel) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pushing_the_Bear

Here  is the question of language: what is it to speak of and to recover language from within the violent loss of home? 

 In Pushing the Bear, Diane Glancy’s almost-readers theatre- like dramatization of the Trail of Tears, wherein the Cherokee people were forced to walk from their home in the southern Appalachians to the plains of Oklahoma (then not a state, but “Indian Territory”) in the 1830s— the main protagonist, Maritole, asks ‘would we find our words hadn’t migrated? “  The dread of this passage is worth quoting in full:


I remembered following Knobowtee through the woods in North Carolina.  The trees laughing. The creek. Our words came out of the land.  Would our words leave their place? Did they walk, too? Would we have language when we got to Fort Gibson in Indian Territory? Would we find our words hadn’t migrated? 

If the language didn’t ross on the rail, it would sink back inside the trees and rocks. It would be buried in the land.  It would go back to where it came.

Let Knowbowtee catch some words.  Let him talk to me. That will be the bird he catches. “

What about catching words? what is this situation, of the unspeakable situation— that speaks ? I ‘m asking about a poetics of migration, really— what can this be? 

all my best



> On Feb 8, 2016, at 8:31 PM, Renate Terese Ferro <rferro at cornell.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear all, 
> I have been enjoying the robust discussion thus far.  So happy that so many of you are sharing your experiences and expertise.  Joining us over the next week will be our long time friend Christina MsPhee. Welcome back Christina.  Below is her biography.  An invitation to all of guests to stay on as long as their schedules permit. Many thanks to all of you.  
> Christina McPhee’s images move from within a matrix of abstraction, shadowing figures and contingent
> effects. Her work emulates potential forms of life, in various systems and
> territories, and in real and imagined ecologies. Her dynamic, performative,
> physical engagement with materials is a seduction into surface-skidding
> calligraphic gestures and mark-making. The tactics of living are in subterfuge,
> like the ‘dazzle ships’ of camouflage in war. Jagged shards vie for position
> and collide with animations, which together swarm, fold, cascade and crash in
> compositions that suggest accelerating mass movements, or the search for
> grounding and commons.  Her work takes on violence, tragic-comic
> exuberance, and vitality from within a ‘post-natural’ experience of community.
> Christina McPhee’s work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum of Contemporary
> Art-Rhizome Artbase, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and Storefront for
> Art and Architecture. Solo museum exhibitions include the American University
> Museum, Washington, D.C., and Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden. She has participated in
> group exhibitions, notably at Documenta 12, Bucharest Biennial 3, Museum of
> Modern Art Medellin, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, and the
> Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), London. She was a recipient of a 2012 MAP
> Fund for Performance in collaboration with Pamela Z for the multimedia
> performance in video, voice and chamber ensemble, Carbon Song Cycle, which
> premiered at Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive and Roulette, Brooklyn
> (2013). http://www.christinamcphee.net
> _______________________________________________
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> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

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