ORIGINS OF AN IDEA
As with many projects, there may be a historic event, an anecdote, or a material that interests me. I don’t always know why I am interested at first, but eventually, the idea emerges and the right time comes for it to materialize.
The first time I worked with this shade cloth material I was in Johannesburg, South Africa working on an exhibition whose main questioning was the natural world and how it is witness to colonization and power imbalances. I was thinking about the use of land for monoculture and cash crops as well as how crops are produced in one area and sent elsewhere.
In South Africa as in other parts of the world which underwent colonization (Texas may find its own examples), certain communities were de-invested of land use and denied free movement. They were relegated to strictly defined places of habitation while settler communities, coming mainly from Europe, farmed land and/or raised livestock on lands that other communities were barred from.
Agriculture is about creating artificial conditions in order to harvest crops. The material found in this exhibition, shade cloth, is one technology used to achieve such artificial environments. As the name suggests, the fabric creates shade. Some particular fabrics also filter out certain elements of the light spectrum and allow others through to encourage the growth of specific crops. It is a simple technology which speaks to humankind’s relationship to nature and its manipulation not simply to sustain itself but to exploit it for capital.
Beyond the contemporary use of this fabric, what interested me was the quality of the material itself—namely its porosity and variable transparency. It simultaneously obstructs and allows the passage of light. Depending on how the material is arranged in space it can act as a screen or wall but its permeability allows one to imagine transgression. Metaphorically it functions as a call to circumnavigate or a formal materialization of actions born out of hope that bypass rigid or exclusionary structures.
When I first worked with this material the whole process was incredibly short and I did not have much opportunity to experiment. So during my residency at Artpace I wanted to spend time with the material and see what forms would emerge. I also wanted to work with it in a three-dimensional way on the walls. I had only worked with black fabric before so I was interested in working with color even though the color palette for this type of fabric is limited.