this land is my land \ this land is your land

Alexandra Robinson

In Residence: Sep 18 – Nov 13, 2023

Exhibition: Nov 9, 2023 – Jan 28, 2024


In Alexandra Robinson’s multimedia installation, titled this land is my land \ this land is your land, the artist continues to utilize coded language to explore notions of land, place, and the elusive search for belonging.  

Upon entering the gallery, the deliberate arrangement of stones immediately captures the viewer’s attention. These stones symbolize the artist’s journey from Kansas, where her parents reside, to her current Texas home, following I-35’s path and the rocky protrusions along the way. The rocks signify the deep history of the land, both in relation to the artist’s own family and the native peoples who once inhabited the region and ideas of protection and ownership. For example, before 1867, Kansas’s land remained unmarked and undivided during an era of open grazing. Yet, as new laws were introduced demanding demarcation, landowners used dry stack stones to define their properties. So, the question arises: who decides who owns land, and what methods will we utilize to enforce that ownership?  

Nestled in the center of a stack of stones stands a figural-like frame draped in a cape created with a cyanotype exterior and ribbons along the interior, titled After Cōātlīcue. This figure mirrors Columbia, the female representation of America, famously represented in John Gast’s “American Progress,” which depicts the idea of Manifest Destiny and American westward expansion. Additionally, the figure takes inspiration from the Virgin of Guadalupe, who wore a blue mantle of stars as she directed Juan Diego to fill his cape with roses, which, when opened, fell to the floor in her likeness. The cyanotype exterior depicts the Milky Way and references notions of navigation and finding your way, while the interior made of strips of ribbon reminds the artist of pageantry and campaigns. The figure is looking out towards a window, where a constructed flag sits outside. Like the rocks, the cape is neither solely one thing nor another. It is a combination of items with multiple meanings and battling complexities.   

The far gallery walls feature an ombre of light blue into white, evoking the sensation of strolling through vast grasslands, gazing at the horizon, and experiencing a sense of elevation. A TV monitor attached to the ceiling forces the viewer to look up at a distorted video of moving grass while a sound piece plays throughout the gallery. This audio takes the Homestead Act and the poem “To Live in the Borderlands Means You” by Gloria Anzaldúa and translates both works into morse code. The contrasting tones are accompanied by sounds from the Flint Hills in Kansas and the Chihuahuan desert. This audio lives in a transient space and, along with the other facets of this exhibition, leads us to realize that even through familiarity, there is a lack of understanding. The paint on the walls, the TV on the ceiling, and the flag outside the window force us to move around the space and consider various angles.  

Lastly, a group of prints utilizes land ownership language to explore our relationship to land and each other. Words like “motherland” and “homeland” sit in conversation with an American flag in one print, an Aztec god Tlaltecuhtli in another, and a map of the United States in the 1830s in the final print. Robinson invites you to consider the multiplicities of existence. The notion is that individuals can hold many places and cultures at once and are not truly one thing over another but everything we have experienced. Similarly, the land that we inhabit was given to us and taken from others. It has borders, but nature is unbound despite how humanity grapples to bind it.  

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Our Texas-based artist residency has been generously funded by the Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the state arts agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas

Artist

Alexandra Robinson

Austin, Texas

Alexandra Robinson is a visual artist who uses coded language and symbols to explore ideas of identity and place. She grew up in the military with her immediate family, an intersection of her Mexican and Jewish heritages. Robinson was a child of worlds in which histories, language and religion were repressed or traded for other identities and it is these themes that continually inform her work. She received her MFA from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and currently teaches at St. Edward’s University in Austin where she is a Professor of Art. Robinson lives with her husband and two daughters shuttling from studio to rehearsal to practice. She has exhibited throughout the country and internationally, most recently at the Salina Art Center, Charlotte Street Foundation, The Contemporary Austin, and Women and Their Work.  

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Curator

Missla Libsekal

Missla Libsekal (b. Addis Abeba, Ethiopia) is an independent curator and writer whose practice centers on alteriority and knowledge transmission. Her long-term interdisciplinary research looks at historically marginalised ways of knowing, with the current chapter considering what stories of living in the land can offer better ways of being in relation with the places that we inhabit and occupy? Her recent curatorial projects include Creating Art Archives (2021) , a 2-day digital forum featuring scholars, publishers, artists and curators and the group exhibition Beyond What We See. Once upon a time, once upon a future (2021), Les Abattoirs, Musée – Frac Occitanie Toulouse.  

In 2010 and ahead of the curve, Libsekal founded Another Africa, a much needed digital platform for writing on and about African and Afro-Diasporic experiences and imaginaries. Operating until 2016, it became a leading destination for art and culture. Her writings on existing and emerging lexicons in contemporary Pan African visual practice have been published in The Africa Report, Aperture, Art Africa, SAVVY art journal, The Guardian, and more. 

Libsekal is involved in cultural advocacy, facilitating artist residency programs, arts education and jurying. From 2013 – 2016, Libsekal collaborated with curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets on their long-term research project 89plus, an investigation on the impact of instant knowledge and technical know-how unfolding with the diffusion of the Internet and networked technologies. Over a four year period, she co-organized artist talks, workshops, research trips to Accra, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa and artist residencies. In 2020, Libsekal joined the advisory board of Black Arts Centre (BLAC), a Black youth-owned and operated gallery and community site. She is a board member at Or Gallery, Vancouver, a non-profit and artist-run contemporary art centre and bookstore. 

She is based Vancouver, Canada the unceded, ancestral territories of  the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. 

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