BJ MATERA 

108 DOUBLE BORDER PROJECT, 2018

The Hudson River and Catskill Mountains form a landscape inextricably linked to one-another both visually and topographically. The Nature/Culture dichotomy, as epitomized in American films of the 50s, emerges clearly in this area. The farms of the late nineteenth century were born on plots of land torn from wetlands and forests. Their borders are outlined by long, straight lines, where trees were replaced with grass lawns. They are closely connected to the past (architecturally), but often deprived of their original function. They come from a history of pioneers, explorers and people who took territory from the natives.

The mountain range and river, conjoined as parts of an iconic landscape, act as a metaphor that also translates to the ways we are all bound and connected to the territory which we come from. My family’s story is one of re-appropriation of territory and culture, a story of "reconstruction". My family emigrated here from Southern Italy by ship at the beginning of the twentieth century. They brought with them pillows filled with raw wool, an item of great value and the fruit of hard work.

My project at Residency 108 starts from here, both from a biographical and natural investigation of the world, and it consists of different intertwined works. I take the sheep fleece cut at the farm, I work it and felt it, holding inside elements of the site: pebbles, leaves and flowers. These elements belong to a territory bounded with fences to keep human and natural life away. But these fences are easily crossed, they act as a delimitation of private property, and at the same time they look like open fractures in the landscape, similar to the fractures that the immigrants made in their lives.

Hence my research, born in Italy continues here, incorporating new elements, to create a series of works that engage both the materials and borders, between past and present. During Residency 108 beside my studio practice I also make In & Out. Double Border Canvas, an environmental installation-performance, part of an on-going series on the concept of ‘border’ in its physical and sociological meaning. Two empty canvases are left on the ground for 7 days. One inside the farm property, the other one outside of it. Both lie adjacent to the old stone wall which marked the property boundaries before the wooden fences currently delineating it. By the canvases there are also cups holding natural materials, grass, leaves, etc. collected beside the canvas on the other side of the border.

As a ritualistic action, each day, I walk along the same path to visit the site. Everyday the passage becomes more marked, and my presence becomes more apparent. This is an attempt to memorialize the people that were here before, both my ancestors and indigenous people. I want to make peace with them, have them make peace with each others and have the land as well make peace with them. To conclude the 7-days performance I invite Jill, an Indian Canadian friend of Residency 108 to perform an Earth Healing ceremony. After the canvases are removed, the materials in the cups are given back to the land where they were collected from.

www.barbarajmatera.com