The southern span of the Colorado Plateau has been a place of cultural confluence since well before European arrival. This arid expanse of high desert, cut through by countless canyons, was the center of the Ancestral Puebloan world. The Navajo called these people Anasazi, and their ornate cliff houses and granaries characterize the region of the Southwest known in contemporary times as The Four Corners.This month-long course circles the Ancestral Puebloan empire on a series of interconnected site visits and base camps, braiding together two distinct themes that have shaped the land and people of the region. The first theme: an inquiry into the ecological conditions that help societies flourish in the interior Southwest, and those that can just as quickly scatter civilizations. We will visit some of the well-known landmarks of ancient architecture, as well as unexcavated backcountry ruins whose names have been lost to history. The second main theme will be the uranium mining and atomic weapons development that continues to impact the Southwest. Along with our study of the Ancestral Puebloans, we will be learning about and engaging with the contemporary Southwest cultures that now occupy the area: present-day Puebloan communities, the Navajo nation, and the Utes, as well as settler communities. Local artists, activists, and researchers will add depth and specificity to our understanding of the various stakeholders that vie for control of the public wildlands of The Four Corners, places such as the contested Bears Ears National Monument in Southeastern Utah. Participants will receive guidance and support in developing a site-specific, self-directed research project, culminating in a new body of artwork in any media. We will travel and camp together for the duration of the trip, nurturing a close cohort to support and challenge each other. This trip is an ideal follow-up for alumni of our Summer Immersion program, and is also appropriate for any artist interested in conducting experiential research and forging a creative practice in a remote setting. Our group will use a combination of short backpacking routes and basecamps to find the right structure for our activities. We will situate ourselves close to water and embark on day hikes into backcountry canyons and mesas to expand our understanding of the land. This course is appropriate for those without any prior backcountry experience as well as seasoned campers.
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