Breaking Ground is a meditation on the tale of dreams, sought and abandoned, that wends its way through the American psyche and landscape.
Rapid expansion and abandonment as a result of industry boom and bust cycles is a recurrent phenomenon in American history, one that has forged our national character and defined our migrations. I have always been interested in these places - in the hard labor, raucous living, personal sacrifice, loneliness, enormous optimism and great risk that quickly fills them up, and then how the din of voices quiets down as the caravan of dreams moves onto another time and place.
I have spent the last five years photographing and recording audio in the Bakken region of North Dakota, documenting the rise of the oil industry there and the substantial American migration that went along with it.
Breaking Ground is a series of site specific installations in which these photographs are projected onto large industrial remnants while sound compositions emanate from different areas of an exhibition site. The viewer is invited to wander various corners of this Bakken world at their own pace: man-camps, strip clubs, oil rig work, abandonment, fracking, migration, Standing Rock, industrial landscape, etc. The background/foreground mix of voices rising and falling over one another is determined by the viewer's body as they move throughout the space.
These fragments add up to convey the many dreams and voices clamoring in places like these for a brief moment lived all at once, as well as the echoes and remnants that will be left behind once the era is over. Past and present are collapsed into visceral imagery, an archetypal landscape wandered by subjects and viewers alike. I want to poke holes in time and inhabit this landscape together. Some bits are lost to the cracks, gesturing at what is irrevocably lost and the impossibility of complete representation. The mix of the ephemeral and infrastructure gestures at the underlying ephemerality of industry itself, and those who people it.
In a play with density, echo, and the ephemeral nature of industry, former factories all across the country become not just containers for this art, but a material and meaningful part of the artwork itself, without whose surfaces it does not exist. The piece traces the industrial pathway through the country - via its remains - and is re-worked for the expressive potentials of each site. The intention is to evoke the memory of those who once worked in places like these, to connect these fragments to a living, breathing terrain and to contemplate the force of this history.