Post-Colonial Statement (Longer)
The intersections between public and private, art and life, history and the present, among others, have always informed my work. I use mapping and indexing to recreate/reconstruct the space-time surrounding my life and other pockets of history. As my first ancestors arrived in North America the 1630s, the history of my family is entwined with that of the United States and thus colonization. That story is a brutal and conflicted one and through broad research I have been thinking of the ramifications of my ancestors being such a part of these wholly unequal encounters.
For several years, I have been mapping interactions between indigenous peoples and various governments. This moves beyond my earlier work with indexing toward a more physical method of mapping which involves walking and driving boundaries while using tools such as GPS and Google Earth. I began by pulling maps from the Library of Congress of the treaties between various indigenous tribes and the United States government, overlaying them on the actual location in a GPS program, then going out and shooting at intervals along the entire boundary. I then overlay the photographs on the original map section in a grid format for the digital print.
A video component of this overall historical and genealogical project is made using stop-motion. The video takes the data from the Library of Congress treaties and shows one step at a time the march of the US across North America from 1785 to 1894. Using plastic toy cowboys and Indians to represent the tribes and the United States, the colors slowly change indicating the removal of native land from all but a few remote locations.
As a counterpart to this research on the actual land and treaties, I traveled to Europe where I transposed maps of the North American/Caribbean colonies onto locations in Europe and then photographically mapped them. I researched my family genealogy and remapped then the land they left. I created new works in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.
Another addition to this post-colonial work is set in Panama. When I began thinking of the rifts between the continents, I immediately thought of the Panama Canal as the literal representation. I could think of no better place to tie the continents back together. I mapped representations of the continents on opposite sides of the canal and mapped the United States in the canal. This trip allowed me to investigate and produce artwork about many of the issues surrounding Panama and United States relations.
An additional part to this body of work was mapping on the island of St Martin. It is the smallest island shared by two colonial powers. I walked and boated the 9 mile border between the two countries and also mapped representations of the European nations onto the side they claimed.
The most current, and broad, component of this overarching body of work is photographically mapping whenever I am in a formerly colonized country. France in Vietnam, Netherlands in Indonesia, England in Malaysia. Mapping a representation of an invader back onto the places of colonization.
Through all of these related projects I seek to illuminate a history that has been sanitized and distorted. Making the photographs using preset conditions instead of my own ideas of photographic beauty is a process that is hard to accept, but important for my process of understanding. The arbitrary notion of borders is one thing I am seeking to bring to the table. The ludicrous, horrendous nature of colonizing another country is another part of the topic that baffles and disturbs me.
Several of these projects were funded through New Frontiers Exploratory Traveling Fellowships through Indianapolis University, Purdue University, Indianapolis.