Decolonizing Ecological Encounters at The Gallatin Galleries

Featured Project with Co-Curators Anastasia Amrhein and Patricia Eunji Kim

Gallery view with works by Tessa Grundon, David Nasca, Joiri Minaya, Himali Singh Soin and Alexis Rider, and micha cárdenas.

Fluid Matters, Grounded Bodies: Decolonizing Ecological Encounters at the Gallatin Galleries in New York City explores complex questions around impermanence, belonging, transformation, and erasure as they relate to human and non-human lives and the earth itself. The exhibition showcases the work of several contemporary artists, of various backgrounds, who utilize a broad range of media. It includes work by Farah Al Qasimi, Beatriz Cortez, micha cárdenas, Tessa Grundon, Joiri Minaya, Ada M. Patterson, Himali Singh Soin, and Alexis Rider, among others. The show runs from July 22 to August 17, 2022. Co curators Anastasia Amrhein and Patricia Eunji Kim shed some light on this group show.

Can you elaborate on your curatorial vision for this group show?

What these artists have in common, is that they all work towards dismantling binary modes of thinking and the ongoing, historical violences against bodies—human bodies, as well as bodies of land and water. They also interrogate the linkages between these various bodies, highlighting how colonial enterprises continually dehumanize and exploit bodies, justifying their actions along lines of race, gender, and sexuality. International in scope, the works presented here offer a variety of distinct perspectives and experiences, emphasizing that colonialism and climate change disproportionately effect and make vulnerable certain places and people, namely, women and femmes, queer people, and people of color.

In its most recent scientific report, the IPCC, or the International Panel on Climate Change, which has published reports since 1990, has for the first time made a statement explicitly linking climate change with colonialism.[1] That historical injustices have far-reaching and long-lasting effects, has, however, been recognized by those most directly affected by them for some time—including the artists featured in this exhibition.

Importantly, the artists of Fluid Matters, Grounded Bodies not only magnify marginalized histories, they also offer modes of resistance and recuperation; they lead the way in imagining and modeling the kinds of relations, ethics, and actions that we need to adopt in order to create a more equitable future and safe living environment for all.

A shoe in front of a television

Description automatically generated with low confidence
Gallery view with works by Tessa Grundon, Beatriz Cortez, and Ada M. Patterson.

Please walk us through the show.

The curatorial team organized the exhibition into four interrelated thematic spaces that feature artworks across media. The first section deals with the Coloniality of Place. As a mechanism of control, colonial logics transform places into grids and maps, while reducing the people, flora, and fauna residing therein into specimens for extraction and study. Despite the projection of such rigid systems, human and non-human agents alike, including land itself, regularly resist facile classifications; they exhibit hybridity and transgress arbitrary, man-made boundaries—flowing, jostling, merging, blending, and colliding. Through such (inter)actions these bodies subvert colonial legacies and confront ideological narratives.

Gallery view with works by Joiri Minaya (left to right): Container #6 (2020) and Container #1 (2015), archival pigment prints on Epson Legacy photography paper, 40 x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Likewise, imperial forces flatten and marginalize colonized bodies, identifying and blurring them with the ecological landscapes that they destroy, obscuring or even erasing the presence of these bodies entirely. Through performance and new media that actively engage viewers, artists appropriate such flattenings in Bodily Presence and Absence. Artists make visible absences and erasures—particularly of the bodies of non-white, queer, trans, femme, immigrant, disabled people—creating new kinds of presences and ways of relating to (transformed) environments.

A picture containing indoor, curtain

Description automatically generated
Still from Um Al Naar (Mother of Fire) (2019) by Farah Al Qasimi, digital video, 42 minutes and 7 seconds. Courtesy of the artist.

Colonial tactics disembody landscapes, forcing biased historical narratives of supremacy and a monolithic culture that conceal abuse and destruction. In Counter-Histories and Mythologies of Place, artists mobilize participatory multimedia and transdisciplinary methodologies to reckon with oppressive colonial histories. They unearth counter-histories and create new modes of knowing places through the fabrication of speculative, materially-engaged archives, re-telling of mythologies and folktales. As a result, these works play with time and blur the boundaries between history and memory, offering transcendence while remaining firmly grounded in place.

A group of people on a beach

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Still from The Whole World is Turning (2019) by Ada M. Patterson, digital video, 21 minutes and 1 second. Courtesy of the artist.

Finally, the creation of kin through an ethics of care promises an antidote, and a path toward remediating eco-biological and social systems alike, as well as the very process of knowledge production in Kinship as Remediation. Such decolonial recuperative practice urgently unfolds at the speed of trust—an engagement with communities of human and non-human beings, archives, and places that is markedly, intentionally slow, refusing the fast-paced rhythms of global capitalism and economic speculation. 

Anastasia Amrhein, PhD (she/her) is an art historian, curator, and educator whose work focuses on pre-modern West Asian material culture and its reception. She is currently writing a book re-interpreting Mesopotamian relations with the (super)natural world. Dr. Amrhein has taught at Bryn Mawr College and has worked on curatorial projects at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Penn Museum, and NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, where she co-curated the exhibition A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and the Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate and co-edited the eponymous collection of essays. She is currently guest-curating an exhibition on queenship, ancient and modern, at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Patricia Eunji Kim, PhD (she/her) is Assistant Professor at New York University and Senior Editor and Curator-at-Large at Monument Lab. Dr. Kim’s research, teaching, and curatorial projects use art historical methods to explore questions of gender, race, power, and memory in antiquity and in the present. Her current monograph project is the first book-length study on the visual and material culture of Hellenistic queenship from the fourth to second centuries B.C.E.—a corpus of materials central to a show that she is guest-curating at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Dr. Kim is also co-editor of Timescales: Thinking Across Ecological Temporalities (2020), The National Monument Audit (2021), and Shaping the Past (forthcoming). @triciaeunjikim

Fluid Matters, Grounded Bodies: Decolonizing Ecological Encounters

July 22 to August 17, 2022 Curated by Anastasia Amrhein, Claudia Azalde, Cheyenne Bryant, Jasmine Buckley, Patricia Eunji Kim, Kaleah Mchawi, and Ally Swanson. Featuring: Farah Al Qasimi, Beatriz Cortez, micha cárdenas, Tessa Grundon, Joiri Minaya, Ada M. Patterson, Himali Singh Soin, and Alexis Rider. The Gallatin Galleries, 1 Washington Pl, New York, NY 10003

To learn more about the exhibition here. For more information on visiting Gallatin Galleries here.