Archive of Documentary Arts Announces 2021-2022 Collection Awards

Submitted by Caitlin Margaret Kelly, Curator, Archive of Documentary Arts

The Archive of Documentary Arts is pleased to announce the 2021-2022 Collection Awards. We will be adding four projects related to environmental (in)justice to the Archive, including three photographic portfolios and one video.

Alphabetically the awardees are:

Crystal Z. Campbell, A Meditation on Nature in the Absence of an Eclipse, 2020, Digital Video

Film Still
Photo: Film still

A Meditation on Nature in the Absence of an Eclipse is a poetic glimpse of how centuries of extraction, racism, pollution, and commoditizing nature has altered our relationship to sacred land and resources. How has nature been historically shaped and imaged for pleasure, status, and control by many hands of invisible labor? Constellated and intersectional histories and source material include testimony from a Water Protector at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, contaminated water in Flint Michigan, original footage of Hierve el Agua near Oaxaca, Mexico revered for its healing properties, archival images of gardens and hands of artists who resided in Tulsa, Oklahoma and children brushing their teeth––a reflection of the innocuous ways which contaminated water and resources shapes the lives of individuals completing banal, daily, routine tasks.

Critical to the film is the intentional use of unlicensed footage, bearing a brand across the center that detracts from what’s happening in the actual footage, and becomes a viewfinder for how that footage is read or deemed important enough to view because there is a branded stamp of approval. Historically, the watermark is used to connote ownership and authenticity. The film is a consideration of how documentary practice can be another form of resource extraction, of which this filmmaker is implicated. Licensing fees are an example of the barriers to access, ultimately deciding who will control critical narratives of environmental racism and discourse. Originally commissioned by Wave Hill Public Garden & Cultural Center, the work was made in 2017 and reedited in 2020.

Crystal Z Campbell (they/them) is currently a 2021–22 UB Center for Diversity Innovation Distinguished Visiting Scholar, multidisciplinary artist, experimental filmmaker, and writer of Black, Filipinx, and Chinese descents. A 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Fine Arts, Campbell finds complexity in public secrets—fragments of information known by many but undertold or unspoken. Using archival material, recent works revisit counternarratives of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, questions of immortality and medical ethics with Henrietta Lacks’ “immortal” cell line, ponder the role of a political monument and displacement in a Swedish coastal landscape, and salvage a 35mm film from a demolished Black activist theater in Brooklyn as a relic of gentrification.

Bio:

Their work in film/video, performance, installation, sound, painting, and text, has been exhibited and screened at The Drawing Center, MOMA, Nest, ICA-Philadelphia, Bemis, Studio Museum of Harlem, SculptureCenter, and SFMOMA. Honors and awards include a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship, with Pollock-Krasner Award, MAP Fund, MacDowell, Skowhegan, Rijksakademie, Whitney ISP, Franklin Furnace, Tulsa Artist Fellowship, UNDO Fellowship, and Flaherty Film Seminar. Campbell’s writing has been featured in World Literature Today, Monday Journal, GARAGE, and Hyperallergic. Campbell, a former Harvard Radcliffe Film Study Center & David & Roberta Logie Fellow, was recently named a Creative Capital Awardee, and is founder of the virtual programming platform archiveacts.com. Campbell lives and works in New York and Oklahoma.

Stacy Kranitz, Fulcrum of Malice, 2017, Photographs

 

Photo: View of Alsen, LA
The Ronaldson Field Debris Landfill
Within just a few years of the closing of the Rollins toxic waste facility, a local businessman named Sid Brian purchased a plot of land in the center of Alsen. Because of the rezoning of the community, Brian was able to secure a construction debris landfill permit and began taking in debris from old abandoned homes being torn down across Baton Rouge as part of an initiative to rid the city of its blight. Soon after the landfill opened, Alsen experienced an infestation of rats, termites, and snakes inside homes. The swampland that had been used by the community for hunting and fishing for many generations was now overrun by mountains of rotting debris that caused the air to stink throughout the community. In 2016, after historic rain flooded huge sections of the city, an emergency order required that the landfill take in 900,000 cubic yards of rotten and moldy housing debris. The residents were never notified of this emergency order. They only realized something was happening when debris trucks began causing traffic jams on the main street through Alsen. Eventually the piles of rotten debris grew so high that they looked like they were about to topple over onto homes just 300 feet away. The Enviromental Protection Agency warns of potential danger from construction and demolition waste, due in part to the fact that construction dust is particulate matter that is difficult to breathe especially if you are very young or old or have breathing problems already. There are also concerns that rotting dry wall emits dangers levels of dioxane into the air. These problems are exacerbated by the heat and humidity so endemic to Louisiana’s climate.

Fulcrum of Malice is the story of one community’s fight against the 25 polluting facilities that surround them. For more than fifty years, Alsen, LA has been caught in an environmental discrimination struggle that disproportionately burdens it with environmental hazards unparalleled in nearby white communities. Within a four-mile radius there are 11 petrochemical plants, 3 Superfund sites, 5 hazardous waste pits, 2 city garbage dumps, and 3 privately owned waste facilities surrounding them. Residents first began complaining of breathing problems, spontaneous nose bleeds, and headaches in the late 1970’s. High cancer rates, asthma, birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages continue to plague the community to this day. Many of the historic African American neighborhoods along the 140-mile Cancer Alley petrochemical corridor were developed after the Civil War when the government established small land grants for former slaves working on sugar cane plantations along the Mississippi River.

Alsen was established in 1872 as a small agrarian community on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. The environmental threats first began in the early 1900s when Louisiana politicians enticed large petroleum companies to the region with lenient environmental policies. In the 1950s, the government voted to rezone the farmland around Alsen from agriculture to industry. The rezoning faced little opposition since there were very few registered voters in Alsen at the time and no elected officials of color in the parish. The petrochemical industry became the backbone of the state’s economy and government officials were eager to bring in more companies. They did this by relaxing industrial zoning regulations near low-income Black communities along the Mississippi river. This method has been used to justify and grow petrochemical corridors around the world. This work is a testament to what has happened. Even if the government and industry continue to refuse to address this problem, the community itself deserve a visual record of the damage that details those responsible for it. This work is for them. And this work is for the rest of us because it is time, we all take responsibility and collectively acknowledge our complicit role in this pattern of systemic racism. The portfolio will be accompanied by a book containing the complete series of images and an investigative narrative detailing the histories of the 25 polluting facilities surrounding the community of Alsen.

Bio:

Stacy Kranitz’s work explores representation and otherness within the documentary tradition. Her work focuses on the complex relationship between land and people. Kranitz was born in Kentucky and currently lives in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee.  She has received funding support from the Michael P. Smith Fund for Documentary Photography, Southern Documentary Fund, Magnum Foundation and the National Geographic Society. In 2019 her work was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Discovery Award. She has presented solo exhibitions of her photographs at the Diffusion Festival of Photography in Cardiff, Wales and the Rencontres d’Arles in Arles, France. Her work has been written about in the Columbia Journalism Review, British Journal of Photography, Journal of Appalachian Studies, Time, The Guardian, Liberation, and the Royal Photographic Society Journal. Her photographs are included in permanent collections at the Harvard Art Museums and the Museum of Fine Art, Houston. She works on assignment as a photographer for publications including Time, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and National Geographic. For the past twelve years, she has been working on a project called As it was Give() to Me.  A monograph of this work will be published by Twin Palms in  2022.

 

Emilio Nasser, La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan, 2016, Photographs

 

Prints of La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan

“Times have changed and the story of La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan has been disappearing. People say that when you don’t believe in something, it ceases to exist”

This project re-imagines the story of La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan in the face of its possible disappearance through collaboration with the community of Tlacotalpan, Mexico. La Cornuda is the mysterious being who lives in the depths of the Papaloapan River in Veracruz Mexico, who appears to disappear, frightens, scares away and explains the unexplained.

Through a collective, playful and participatory re-construction, La Cornuda is reinvented. In its attempt to survive the forgetfulness of modern times, it makes a decision that requires courage. Leaving the river, crossing the threshold of the shore, transforming itself, and entering into Tlacotalpan. While La Cornuda walks around invisible to the eyes of the community, the photographic lens reveals its new life.

La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan documentary project is part of an ongoing series called Memory is a Swamp (2016-ongoing), focused on myths, urban legends, local stories and oral histories that adopt, retell and re-interpret these narratives in a changing contemporary world, opening a space for experimental visions, re-framings and collaborative working contexts.

Bio:

Through photographic practice, video, drawing and diverse collaborative strategies, Emilio Nasser’s projects have been attempted to navigate the infinite and multiple possibilities in visual narratives. Embarking on different paths, his works are based on and with local histories, re-visited myths, oral memories, identities, belonging, imagination, community, and some other things that are still complicated to explain with words on a conscious level. Graduated in Photography at Spilimbergo School of Applied Arts in Argentina. Then, at the outbreak of the 2001 socio-economic crisis, he became a cook. While living between Latin America and Europe, he has engaged in multiple educational experiences; such as Criticae-Max Pinkers, Folio Phmuseum, Laura El-Tantawy-Sybren Kuiper, Experimental’s Photobook-Julián Barón, 20Fotógrafos, Estudio Marcos López, Rodrigo Fierro-Gabriel Orge, among others. Currently in ISSP Masterclass-Rhizoma: Political Constellations with Lisa Barnard. Exhibited at spaces like Phmuseum Days (IT), Verzasca Foto Festival (CH), Emergentes International Photography Award-Encontros da Imagen (PT), Valongo Festival Da Imagen (BR), Yet-Magazine (CH), PHEspaña (ES), SCAN PhotoBooks (ES), Ojo de Pez (ES). Twice awarded grants by the Fondo Nacional del Arte (AR).

 

Lawrence Sumulong , “No Longer Can I Stay; It’s True.” The Marshallese in Springdale, Arkansas, 2016, Photographs 

A display outside of one of the few Marshallese owned businesses in Springdale, AR

No longer can I stay; it’s true.
No longer can I live in peace and harmony.
No longer can I rest on my sleeping mat and pillow
Because of my island and the life I once knew there.

The thought is overwhelming
Rendering me helpless and in great despair.

My spirit leaves, drifting around and far away
Where it becomes caught in a current of immense power –
And only then do I find tranquility

-The Bikinian Anthem (1946) by Lore Kessibuki (1914-1994)

In 2016, I looked at daily life in Springdale, Arkansas, where the largest community of Marshallese in the United States currently resides. Specifically, I focused on the traumatic history of the Bikinians, a community of about 5,000+ Pacific Islanders, whose homeland in the Bikini Atoll remains radioactive and uninhabited due to years of deadly US nuclear testing.

The Bikinians have lived in exile on the islands of Kili and Ejit in the Marshall Islands for 76 years. Currently, there are only a few remaining Bikinians out of the original 167 who were asked to leave their homeland in 1946 by the US military.

The relatively recent emigration to the United States entails yet another significant move away from their ancestral homeland. Their migration was motivated by the ability to live, work, and study in the United States according to the Compact of Free Association. However, as a new immigrant and historically exploited community, the Marshallese American livelihood remains entwined with blue collar work in the poultry industry of Northwest Arkansas.

Pre and post covid-19 pandemic, the successes and struggles of both the Bikinian and general Marshallese population offer a complicated look into what it means to be a part of American society. I wanted to learn from an adjacent and related ethnic experience, to foster empathy across cultures, and understand who we are as Americans in this new administration and era. To that end, I saw the use of printing on banana fibre paper to be a visual way of connecting my own heritage with the Marshallese experience in that it is a crop endemic to both the Marshall Islands and the Philippines.

Bio:

I am a Filipino American photographer based in Brooklyn, New York City. I also run a commercial studio with my wife, Sarah, and our two Siamese-Maine Coon cats, Miko and Oliver.  My personal work looks for ever-shifting approaches to documentary storytelling and imagery as a means of both questioning my own point of view as well as depicting reality. My perspective reflects how particular historical moments alter, disrupt, and shape one’s society and sense of self. Despite the United States existing as both my place of residence and birthplace, my work for over a decade had focused exclusively on my relationship to the Philippines. Most recently, I’ve been documenting emerging Asian American and Pacific Islander communities at a time where it feels absolutely necessary to depict the nuances within the panoply of AAPI experiences and histories, while also thinking about intersections.

 

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