[-empyre-] deep time and indigenous peoples

Timothy Conway Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Wed Nov 7 01:36:07 AEDT 2018

kate.brettkelly at gmail.com> wrote: "But looking more critically at this artistic interest in deep time, I have
wondered whether it risks the presumption of an absolute, universal frame
of reference. Does it presuppose a primordial time that is rather
conveniently indifferent to histories of social inequality and subjugation?
More pointedly, when we celebrate the deep time of earth, do we actively
overlook the durations and experiences of indigenous peoples?""

Thank you Kate for opening up the month with this important warning.  We live down the road in Upstate New York from the GAYOGOHÓ:NÓ or the Cayuga Nation which has been fighting in the courts to retrieve part of its lands at the top of Cayuga Lake.  Cornell University is situated on Cayuga homelands.  Since the Cayuga's never signed a nineteenth-century "treaty" with the US giving them 'nationhood,'" their efforts to reclaim just a small section of their land for a formal territory has been rebuffed by the courts.    One of our guests this month, Jolene Rickard, will be discussing her work to articulate and preserve the cultural heritage of the Cayugas, a project which will culminate in the commission of a new Cayuga sculpture.

Your post also reminds me of another work by Smithson, his salt sculptures created for the 1969 Cornell University "Earth Art" exhibition (http://78.media.tumblr.com/8c044a34d4c024796e1958f953b4e5bb/tumblr_mr4dtbfQ6N1r70t2xo1_1280.jpg). For this series of works, installed in the University art museum, Smithson dis-played salt retrieved from the mines running under Cayuga Lake, the home waters of the Cayuga.  A lot can be said about these underdiscussed works, but I've always appreciated them as countering, through an emphasis on artistic constructivism and deconstructionism, the kind of universalist approach to the environment that Smithson later describes Spiral Jetty to be.  Here the approach to this earthly material seems dependent, contingent, on its placement within the very institutional history -- a University art museum on Cayuga homelands -- of its artistic transformation.  But, as Kate cautions, even the 'deconstruction' of such universalisms depends on the very centrality of the universalisms themselves.  Indeed, it was not until last year that the President of Cornell University first openly acknowledged in formal settings the Cayuga homelands on which the University sits.

It is in this complex regard that I'm hoping our discussions of 'duration' in contemporary art will dwell on the cultural persistence of passage and survival.

Thanks for opening this window, Kate.


Timothy Murray
Director, Cornell Council for the Arts and Curator, CCA Biennial
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art 
http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu <http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu/>
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
B-1 West Sibley Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

On 11/5/18, 3:22 PM, "empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on behalf of Kate Brettkelly" <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on behalf of kate.brettkelly at gmail.com> wrote:

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