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Talks

Listen: Borderlands / The Desert

What are the utopian and dystopian qualities of the desert that draw artists over generations?

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Jananne Al-Ani, Aerial I, production still from Shadow Sites II, 2011

Jananne Al-Ani, Aerial I, production still from Shadow Sites II, 2011

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From seminal Land Art projects like Michael Heizer’s Double Negative and James Turrell’s Roden Crater; to the proliferation of artists’ projects in Marfa, Texas; to Jananne Al-Ani’s films of remote landscapes of the Middle East that have been scarred by war, to Ben Rivers’s most recent project, set in the Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona, the unique and sometimes bizarre landscapes of the desert have served as fertile ground for artists, writers and filmmakers alike. What are the utopian and dystopian qualities of the desert that draw artists over generations? In this panel discussion, curator and writer Shumon Basar discusses the ‘desert imaginary’ with artist Jananne Al-Ani, Ballroom Marfa curator Laura Copelin, and artist and filmmaker Ben Rivers.

  • Jananne Al-Ani was born in Kirkuk, Iraq and is currently based in London. Working with photography, film and video, Al-Ani has a longstanding interest in the power of testimony and the documentary tradition, be it through intimate recollections of absence and loss or the exploration of more official accounts of historic events. Her work has been shown at Tate Britain, the Smithsonian Institution and the Imperial War Museum, London, among many others.
     
  • Shumon Basar has overseen the creative direction of the Global Art Forum since 2011, becoming Commissioner in 2013. He is a writer, holds editorial positions at Bidoun and Tank magazines, and is a founding member of Fondazione Prada’s Thought Council.
     
  • Laura Copelin is the curator at Ballroom Marfa, a non-profit contemporary art space in Far West Texas. In Marfa, she has realized exhibitions, commissions, publications and programs, many that bring together the realms of international contemporary art and environmental sciences particular to the Chihuahuan Desert.
     
  • Ben Rivers is an artist and filmmaker whose work has premiered in both art galleries and film festivals worldwide. Rivers recently won the second EYE Art Film Prize 2016, as well as the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, 68th Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Two Years At Sea. His Artangel commission The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers and his solo exhibition ‘Earth Needs More Magicians’ at Camden Arts Centre took place in 2015. His solo show ‘Urth’ is currently on view at The Renaissance Society in Chicago.