“There is no such thing as a natural disaster. In earthquakes the architecture fails. If you’re out in a grassy meadow, it doesn’t matter how big the earthquake is: it might knock you down, but if nothing falls on top of you and nothing catches fire from broken gas mains or power lines, then you’re probably okay. Architecture is the first casualty of earthquakes, and human beings under the architecture are the casualties of the architecture. Even with a wholly natural disaster, whatever that might be—a tsunami, maybe—who gets help, who has resources to rebuild, who is treated as a threat or a malingerer—those are not natural but social phenomena. With Katrina you need to talk about the role of climate change in making the hurricane; of the crappy levees built by the US Army Corps of Engineers and not adequately maintained; of the lack of evacuation resources for the poor; of the demonization of those left behind; of the transformation of New Orleans into a prison-city preventing evacuation … nothing could be less natural. The natural disaster was the least of what happened to the people of New Orleans, if not the rest of the Gulf, that week.”
— Rebecca Solnit, interview with Astra Taylor, BOMB Magazine
Lover 9th Ward, from the New Orleans Suite, 2006. Photo by Lewis Watts.
Rachel Harrison, American Idol, 2008, wood, polystyrene, cement, Parex, acrylic, microphone with stand, 62×24 x 89”. Photo: André Morin. All images of Rachel Harrison’s works courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali, New York.
“[Rachel] Harrison reports that they [she and Nayland Blake] met seven summers ago while teaching in the sculpture department of the Bard MFA program. They struck up a friendship upon realizing that they both rewarded themselves after a grueling day of crits by going shopping to places they never visited in New York City—Walmart, Target, and, especially, Michael’s craft store in Kingston, NY, where Harrison says they “get all excited looking at grandma craft kits.” They take their critical thinking to the shops with them. Once, at Michael’s, Blake spotted a whitefeathered owl and said to Harrison, “You might need this for your work.” It’s lying around in her studio, waiting to appear in one of her pieces. The idea is one that harkens back to Schwitters and passes through Rauschenberg: de-contextualizing consumer goods and recycling discarded stuff is the basis of a daily sculptural engagement with the world of objects around us—the street is as much a studio as, well, the studio. Both artists mine the inherent theatricality of objects for display.”
[BOMB Magazine interview, Fall 2008]