Signal Fire’s 2015 programs brought artists from around the world into both established and proposed wilderness areas across the American West, inviting them to consider the distance between the wilderness and the wild. The National Wilderness Preservation System, created by the 1964 Wilderness Act, protects 109.5 million acres of federal land from motorized use and most development. The idea of a pristine and unpeopled wilderness is a uniquely American ideal, and it remains at the core of this country’s environmental movement. But despite the clear benefits to preserving intact habitat and for quiet recreation, the wilderness idea has disturbing ties to the erasure and displacement of Native Americans, and some say it creates a false binary establishing protected places where the wealthy can recreate while everything outside the wilderness boundary can be defiled.
The Future Wild features seven artists from six different 2015 programs. The photographs of Seattle artist Zack Bent result from excursions with his children into the managed forests near his home. The resulting images are both vivacious and unsettling, conveying the vulnerability of youth and prompting questions about the world we are leaving for future generations. Eugene-based artist Ron Linn shows recent work made in Iceland, where the stark landscape frames and informs a series of staged photographs and sculptural wind socks. Portlander Zoe Keller contributes meticulous drawings that merge science illustration with science fiction, alluding to the mysteries still intact within the nonhuman world.
A video program presents segments of two long-form works: New York artist Miriam Simun’s I Did Not Have to Kill in Order to Survive, a narrative meditation on the act of hunting and the process of survival, and the poetic and the visually lavish film Silver and Vanilla, a collaboration between LA-based artists Isabel Theselius and Yaron Michael Hakim. The program also features Zhiwan Cheung’s 2015 video Reading the Rainbow, an elaborate work about the act of naming, about culture and color, involving the artist manipulating sculptures within a lush landscape.
Signal Fire would like to thank the artists, Cascade Campus Gallery Director Sandy Sampson, and Jen and Mark from the Baker Building, as well as the Oregon Community Foundation, who has provided funding to support our 2017 exhibitions.
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