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Deserting the Site: Houston Program May 17-19

As part of the project Deserting the Siteles Beaux-Arts de Nantes Metropole (France) and the School of Art at the University of Houston (TX) have conceived and organized a series of lectures and seminars in Houston in the wider context of Fieldwork: Marfa and with the support of the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston. This program will lay the theoretical ground for artistic investigations by 12 graduate students in studio art, concluding in an exhibition in Marfa and subsequent exhibitions in Nantes and Houston.

May 17 – 2-4pm | Seminar

- Deserted Sites, Concerted Sights, presented by Natilee Herren

This presentation provides a provisional theorization of what is shared among the “deserted sites” both urban and rural that have featured in select Land Art practices, typically understood through the example of monumental constructions in the landscape of the Southwest United States, since the 1960s, and connects historic examples to present-day projects sited in overlooked or abandoned corners of cities.

- From Deep Sea to Deeper Space through High Latitudes of Arctic, presented by Olga Bannova

This presentation discusses issues associated with extreme conditions and their influences on design and architecture.

May 17 – 7-9pm | Keynote

- On The Stack to Comekeynote by Benjamin Bratton

The Stack is an interdisciplinary design brief for a new geopolitics that works with and for planetary-scale computation. Interweaving the continental, urban, and perceptual scales, it shows how we can better build, dwell within, communicate with, and govern our worlds. In this talk, Bratton will reflect on The Stack-we-have and what the design of The-Stack-to-Come may entail.

May 18 – 10am-12pm | Seminar

- Animal Silencepresented by Lina Dib

What does one find in the desert? The desert is where we can witness the future scraped and scarred by the past. So this affectless amnesiac environment is also where contemplation of our inhumanity takes place. It is a place for both critique and disappearance or perhaps critique of our eventual disappearance.

- Paranoia and Ecology: Smithson’s Non-Site, presented by Derek Woods

The need to theorize abstraction in relation to the site invites a return to Robert Smithson’s “nonsite.” For Smithson, non-sites frame sites, abstracting them into cultural and semiotic spaces, most often the space of the museum. Derek Woods brings this theory of the non-site into conversation with the little-studied juncture of cultural paranoia and ecological thought.

May 18 – 2-4pm | Seminar

- Fragments in Tall Grass presented by Andy Campbell

Fragments in Tall Grass considers Marsh Ruins (1981), a work by sculptor Beverly Buchanan. This paper understands topic of Deserting The Site from an oblique angle, asking how such concepts might intersect with racialized geographies and sculptural forms, and how a dislocation away from the material conditions of the desert might enrich the notion of desertion.

- The Day The Sun Rose Twice presented by Gabriel Martinez

This artist talk will present Mountain War Time, a recent body of work addressing the secrecy surrounding the detonation of the first atomic bomb at the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. The piece approaches the desert as a space of exposure and revelation and focuses on two moments of slippage in the atomic bomb’s clandestine development.

May 19 – 7-9pm | Keynote

- Extrastatecraft, keynote by Keller Easterling

Coding the system are bankers, developers, and consultants for whom space may only be a byproduct of laws, econometrics, informatics, logistics, or global standards. Yet this matrix space is shaping of some of the most radical changes to the globalizing world. It has become a de facto medium of polity and a secret weapon of stealthy politics. But this space is also an underexploited tool of global change that brings another relevance to art and design. And it prompts an adventure in thinking that considers nothing less than an alternative approach to form-making and activism, an alternative with special aesthetic pleasures and political capacities.


All talks, seminars, and keynotes are open to the public and free of charge.

Location: University of Houston, Fine Arts Building Room 110, 4188 Elgin Street, Houston, Texas 77204-4019 - Campus map

The seminar sessions include a 30 minute talk followed by a Q&A session led by the participating students and critique of their own proposed projects. The keynote sessions include a one hour talk and a one hour Q&A session. All events will be recorded and archived online at www.desertunit.org.

For more information on the project Deserting The Site, click here.

For the detailed program and speakers biographies, visit www.desertunit.org.

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