We are excited to announce our call for applications for the Rabbit Island Residency program and a new residency for choreographers and composers, created in collaboration with the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. The application deadline for both residency programs is February 15th, 2019 at 11:59 EST.


2018 Island Notes

Our 2018 season was a memorable one. Three incredible artists-in-residence each spent time in dedicated exploration of the island and their practices. The weather was generally favorable June through September, punctuated by a few intense storms that changed the landscape on the mainland. Island talks, visitations from long-time collaborators, wonderful fishing, and exhibitions and events on the mainland rounded off a successful program year.

– Our awarded residents were Alice Pedroletti, Calvin Rocchio, and Duy Hoàng. At nearly a month on average, their time in residence was some of the longest in our program’s history. That time offered an incredible amount of understanding of the island’s environment and camp life. As a result a prolific amount of research and work was created.

– Calvin and Duy’s residencies overlapped for two weeks in late August to mid September. The overwhelmingly positive feedback on having simultaneous residencies gives us some exciting ideas and possibilities for the future.

– We hosted two Island Talks this summer, boating over 20 visitors for day trips to meet the residents in person, share a meal, and participate in workshops or group explorations of the island.

– When opening up camp, several trees—including one of the white pines at the main landing—had been felled by strong storms in the autumn and winter of 2017. After a lot of labor, our firewood situation for the 2019 season looks very good.

– The resident bald eagles were healthy and active. While no new chicks were spotted this year, several yearlings and juveniles were seen visiting the nest.

– Evidence of a beaver visiting the island this spring or early summer was obvious around the perimeter of the island. Many small, shoreside aspen trees had been cut down. It is unknown if the beaver is living on the island.

– The ongoing biological study of our red-backed vole population continued. Having so few natural predators on the island has resulted in unique differences to the mainland vole groups also being studied. Interestingly, that may have changed this year with high likelihood of a weasel or ermine now being present. Sighted by Alice in late June, a scat sample was collected a few weeks later and confirmation is pending lab tests.

– Fishing was good, with the best results coming at dawn and dusk. The native lake trout of Keweenaw Bay and surrounding waters was frequently on the menu, but an occasional coho salmon also took our lures.

– Long-time island collaborator and Rabbit Island School mentor Christina Mrozik visited the island in July, helping represent our activities at the annual Farm Block Festival on the mainland. Christina will be returning as a mentor next year as we restructure Rabbit Island School to focus on opportunities for local young leaders.

– On the mainland, our inaugural exhibition of the Rabbit Island Collection was hosted by the nearby Finlandia University Gallery. The exhibition featured 13 artists and 20 exemplary works donated by former residents and collaborators. The opening was a great success and included a thoughtful artist talk by Calvin Rocchio who had just come off the island. Calvin also conducted a workshop with students at Finlandia’s International School of Art & Design.

– Our partnership with the DeVos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University in Marquette also continued. 2017 residents Jasmine Johnson and Rachel Pimm returned from London to premiere a new video installation in their exhibition THIS IS NOT THIS. They also delivered an artist talk at the university’s annual United conference and at the NMU School of Art and Design.

Endless gratitude to our residents and collaborators for helping define such a wonderful year on and off the island. Extra special thanks to those who support the program locally and from further afield. Patronage is one the most effective ways you can help us continue this work in advancing culture and conservation. Interested in being one of the next artists-in-residence? Our open call for applications for 2019 will be announced in the coming days.

A Sense of Place: Works from Rabbit Island
21 September – 19 October 2018

The inaugural exhibition of the Rabbit Island Collection with artworks donated by former resident artists and collaborators, featuring Julieta Aguinaco Beau Carey, Luce Choules, Sarah Demoen, Jack Forinash, Kelly Gregory, Miles Mattison, Josefina Muñoz, Andrew Ranville, Isabella Rose Martin, Walter van Broekhuizen, and Mary Welcome. Short films and videos on display feature the work of Eugene Birman, Scott Diel, Helsinki Chamber Choir, Ben Moon, Colin McCarthy, and Courtney Michalik and Michael Kent for The Boardman Review.

2018 resident Calvin Rocchio—who had just previously spent over one month on the island—delivered a talk and spoken word performance at the opening reception. Rabbit Island publications and featured articles are available to view in a “reading room” entrance to the exhibition. Contributions support the Rabbit Island Residency program and future Collection exhibitions, publications, and events.

The exhibition’s introduction—

Located four miles east of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Rabbit Island is a protected 91-acre wilderness that hosts artists, writers, and researchers from a wide variety of disciplines. Since its inception in 2013 the Rabbit Island Foundation Residency Program has received approximately 1,000 applications from 37 countries and has awarded 26 fully supported residencies. Additionally, nearly 60 artistic collaborations have also taken place. The program operates between June and September, championing the advancement of artistic and ecological thought. This inaugural exhibition of the Rabbit Island Collection provides a detailed portrait of the island and residency experience.

The exhibition is on display until the 19th of October, please stop by if you are in the area or will be visiting soon.

Finlandia University Gallery
Finnish American Heritage Center
435 Quincy Street
Hancock, Michigan 49930

Congratulations 2018 Residents

We are excited to announce the awarded residencies for the 2018 Rabbit Island Residency program. Duy Hoàng, Alice Pedroletti, and Calvin Rocchio will live and work on Rabbit Island during their residencies between June and September of this year.

We received 279 applications representing individuals and groups from 26 countries by the January 28th deadline of our open call. The selection committee spent the month of February reviewing applications, finally awarding residencies to the artists featured below.

The committee’s process included individual members reviewing each proposal in detail, offering notes, creating labels to help organize and categorize, and register initial votes. The committee then convened in a videoconference over two days, going through the entire list of applicants. At the end of the second day a shortlist of approximately 20 applicants was narrowed to 10 finalists. These applicants were interviewed for 30 minutes during a videoconference at the beginning of March, providing time to learn more about the artists and their proposal while also allowing applicants to ask questions. Afterwards, the committee took an additional three days to review their notes and consider the finalists. Finally, the committee members voted anonymously for their top three applicants, resulting in the awarded residency positions. It was an difficult decision for the committee, who showed great consideration and thoughtfulness during the entire process. The Rabbit Island Foundation is extremely fortunate to have such a committed group of alumni who help enrich and advance the residency program.

All 10 finalists and many of the shortlisted artists were deserving of a residency, and we thank them for their inspired and inspiring proposals. Unfortunately, due to scheduling and funding limitations, only three residency positions were awarded for the 2018 programming season.

Here we are sharing the awarded proposals in full. We do so in the interest of transparency for the residency program and selection process while also providing an insight to the quality, critical nature, and ambition of the proposals we receive. We do so fully understanding that the questions, research, and work put forward will likely change in the time for each artist before, during, and after the residency, and look forward to working with them during the evolution of their ideas.

The Rabbit Island Residency program is officially five years old, and the nearly 1000 applications we have received from our open calls during that time have expanded and simultaneously refined the foundation’s position on the intersection of art, ecology, and conservation. The committee sincerely thanks all who have offered exceptional work and a carefully considered proposals. It is an honor to be working with the following artists over the next year.

The 2018 Rabbit Island Residency Selection Committee
Beau Carey, 2015 resident
Luce Choules, 2016 resident
Lucy Engelman, 2013 collaborator
Rob Gorski, cofounder
Nicholas McElroy, 2014 resident
Josefina Muñoz, 2015 resident
Andrew Ranville, cofounder
Jessica Segall, interdisciplinary artist



Duy Hoàng is an interdisciplinary artist born in Vietnam who is currently living in New York City. He recently received an MFA from Columbia University in the summer of 2017. Hoàng has exhibited in galleries and institutions throughout New York and Massachusetts, and in Singapore, Israel, the UK, and Germany. He is currently working on upcoming projects at the Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina in Serbia, and Grafiformas in Colombia.

Statement and proposal:

As a Vietnamese immigrant arrived in the U.S. during adolescence years, the transitional moment triggers the necessity for intensive observation and awareness. My work focuses on the links between the mundanes and the phenomena, between the potential of growth to the inevitability of decay, and the connections/disconnections between one and their surrounding environment.

I work with natural materials such as plants and minerals as site specific specimens to question the sense of location, search for settlement, and “home”. The live materials in my research are often invasive, or non-native species, due to my fascination in their borderless journeys, adaptation to foreign conditions, and their impacts on the new environments. I make connections between these natural materials and human interventions through scientific and natural history studies. With emphasis on the necessity of attentiveness through observational methods and implications, the works are often time-based, where their appearances constantly change due to the natural process of decay.

I am concerned with our relationship to nature, its well-being to ours, and vise versa. I often return to the idea of the edible plants from my family’s garden, which constantly migrates over the years with us. The garden’s health is in direct correlation to its caretakers’, where they grow and decay with each other.

During the Rabbit Island Residency, I want to explore the land to observe and gain knowledge on the invasive plants on the island and their influences on the ecosystem there. I want to educate myself on the “local” species, draw connections to where they might have came from and how they might have ended up in the same location. The plants themselves have an embedded migrational and historical map in their own beings and the scale is excitingly unfathomable. The island is an organism existing on its own, separated from mainland, yet at the same time, sharing its DNA with the rest of the planet. I perceive the inherent connections between the minute details to the vast, incomprehensible scale as an incredibly profound philosophy.

Through the personal discoveries of the plants, I want to continue my research on the notion of migration and “nomadic home”. What is the meaning of “home” and how do we carry it with us? Survival techniques, scientific expeditions, and adaptations to the constant changing environment have influenced my work for quite some times. A large part of my practice has been working without a studio and using any available spaces as fieldwork for production, site specific responses, and new experimentations. I want to continue to push this way of making and exploration by fully engulfing myself in the wilderness of Rabbit Island while protecting the Leave No Trace policy.

With the opportunity of working and living undisturbed from the immediate modern society, I want to rediscover the personal relationship we have with nature and to question ways of improving our attentiveness to the surrounding environment. The interstitial space between the potential of growth and the inevitability of decay is a narrow path where I want the work to activate in. This give and take relationship will not only emphasize my interactions with the natural matters on the island, but also the land itself as an organism to our environment at large.

How do we pay attention?
To our surroundings?
To ourselves?
How do we utilize our senses?
How are we at this moment?
Moment before?
Moment after?
Moments altogether?
How are we to one another?
How are we together?
How are we alone?
How do we make decisions?
How do we change?
How do we experience?
How do we question?

I want to utilize the precious space and time as an opportunity to be intimately regaining touch with nature and how we can improve our relationship with it. Outreaching my senses to the immediate surrounding, to the island itself, and to the rest of the world, I hope my work can be a contribution to the larger conversion of our butterfly effect on the natural world.



Alice Pedroletti is an Italian artist that works mainly with images and archives. She has exhibited throughout Europe and has had solo shows in the Netherlands, United States, and Italy. As artist-curator, she runs ATRII, a “living archive” hosted at the City Archive in Milan (Cittadella degli Archivi). The archive involves artists’ projects for the future, constantly in evolution until their realization. The project—also a working methodology—investigates the concept of “atrium” from a processual and theoretical point of view. The aim is to create an unusual comparison between artist, space, commission, and public, creating new opportunities and tools to enjoy contemporary art and architecture.

Statement and proposal:

I regularly question the photographic medium, especially all that comes from the action of using it. At the center of my research, I often relate sculpture and photography, with varying outcomes that are contain a matrix of both disciplines, and always concerning the complex natures of temporality and fragility in the mediums and materials.

I use literature, science or history as inspiration for my work, recreating ambiguous images, or memorials, where various objects or the idea of them, are obsessively collected in a subtraction process where I consider an unknown reality. I am interested in peculiar geographical sites, in which I can underline the psychological relationship between individuals and nature through photographic and analytic sculptures.

What would the world be like without time?

My interest in floating islands, seen as monuments, pre-existing architectures, and hourglasses, began several years ago with a study on the lightweight structural concrete. The lightweight structural concrete, in use since the seventies, is an insulating construction material with a low specific weight. Blocks can be easily sculpted and depending on the composition density, they can float in liquids. Once submerged in water, a second possible reality is created beneath the surface, which becomes a natural partition between this world - in constant evolution and destruction - and another that preserves what is slowly lost in this one. Water, therefore, becomes a metaphor: something that covers, protects, preserves and feeds what is destroyed. Something that gives physicality to an invisible, hypothetical and ephemeral reality.

What’s the meaning of above and beneath, then?
Is there a relationship between the two parties?
Do they have a common time?

The relationship between space and time is similar to a large hourglass: a cone that in physics is also the symbol of time. It is theorized that time flows differently depending on the geographical position of the subject. In the mountains, it passes faster, slowly in the plain. In space, the time as we know it does not exist and everything float because time is uniform. Above and below the floating islands, above and below the surface of the water, will the time be different? What would the Earth be like if suddenly everything will be upside down?

Starting from these considerations I would like to measure the time on Rabbit Island, from the two more distant and vertical points of it. Below, towards the bottom of the lake and above, on the top of the highest tree. The measurement can also be hypothetical, investigated through photographs, drawings, and materials. What will be the flow of time or its sudden and hypothetical absence? The two different points are the possibility of a choice: they represent the future and the past, while the island becomes the space of the present, where to hypothesize solutions. Once you get off the ground this possibility becomes real: how much time do we really have? Could it end?



Calvin Rocchio is an interdisciplinary artist based in Emeryville, California who regularly uses design, publishing, and workshops with local communities to explore how we interact and understand the landscape. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2012. As an invited artist, Calvin has recently initiated events for several organizations and projects in the mountains, cities, and coastal communities on the west coast, along with cultural hubs and quarry towns on the east coast.

Statement and proposal:

My practice, through what’s accumulated practicing openly and perpetually, amounts to an ecological ontology––a way of being in the world that’s pliable / wavy / soft / permiable. With optimism and enthusiasm––through publishing, distribution, graphic design, image making, research, organization, rearticulation, and movement––spaces are cultivated for new relations to the environments that we inhabit and exist as parts of. These spaces, often fertilized and enriched through collaboration and exchanges that ignore the specificities of discipline, celebrate entanglement and vulnerability to momentums outside of any single perspective, human or non-human. Just the way the mind casts a wide net, or how books can point in a multitude of directions at once, the effort dissipates in being unavoidably entangled in the world.

Metaphors quickly proliferate between the practices of geology, writing, mining, and publishing. The parallels in digging up / distributing, inherent between the latter two mediums, is a good place to start in thinking more specifically how the historical courses of mining could influence a more place-oriented practice of publishing. How could John Henry Jacobs’ long collaboration with the ground of the Upper Peninsula serve as a model for research, publishing, and distribution? In the late 19th century, mining towns quickly sprang up in proximity to major projects, supporting social structures where they couldn’t have existed prior, and created a public around private endeavors. Miners were said to have “read” the land and stone, through speculation and subjective research–poking and prodding until they found something beneath the surface that they could excavate. The prized red Jacobsville Sandstone they cut from the eastern shores of the UP was distributed near and wide, mostly featured as a building material, making prominent appearances in early modernist architecture in Chicago and all over Michigan.

I would like to use this history of engagement with the ground of the UP through geology, extraction, and distribution, in initiating a temporary publishing platform that utilizes these histories and terminologies as a metaphorical model for producing (a) publication(s). Through the development of content, design, production, and distribution, using the geologic occurrences largely responsible for the active formation of the UP (such as lineation, syncline, foliation, and rift) as a point of departure for thinking about the guiding design of language and imagery on the printed page–book design as sight specific process of observation and excavation.

Ultimately this endeavor would fit into a larger constellation of research, projects and gatherings I’m conducting titled The Library of Ecstatic Ecology. The aim is to develop spaces to think both about existing and newly produced publications as ecological entities in their own right, and how to test new ecological orientations within these spaces.

How can a book add to the density of place, and when does the landscape begin to read us?

Our 2018 program is made possible with support from our donors and the National Endowment for the Arts Artist Communities Grant.

Our open call for applications for the summer 2018 season is live. The submission deadline is January 28th, 2018.  Awarded residents will receive a generous honorarium and support to travel to, live on, and make work on Rabbit Island. The island is a protected wilderness located in the largest freshwater lake in the world. We are looking for ambitious artists from any discipline to place themselves and their practice in this unique environment. Residents will be featured in our annual publication and may receive additional support and opportunities for exhibiting their work. Download the residency application guide and submit your proposal at www.rabbitisland.org/art.

The 2016 Rabbit Island Artist in Residence Exhibition opening reception is tomorrow evening, September 27th, at 6:30pm at the DeVos Art Museum on the campus of Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. Please join us! The exhibition runs until November 12th.

In addition to the exhibition, the exhibiting artists have arrived over the past several days and will be presenting their work and island experiences through a series of events the museum is hosting.

Monday, September 25 – 3pm
Artist Talk by Walter van Broekhuizen

Wednesday, September 27 – 6pm
Film screening and talk with Jack Forinash, Kelly Gregory, and Mary Rothlisberger

Wednesday, September 27 – 6:30pm
Reception: Rabbit Island Artist in Residence Exhibition

Thursday, September 28 – 3pm
Performative Lecture with Luce Choules

Congratulations 2017 Residents

We are pleased to announce the awarded residencies for the 2017 program on Rabbit Island. Last fall we received 223 applications representing individuals and artist groups from 26 countries. The selection committee—comprised of cofounders Rob Gorski and Andrew Ranville, DeVos Art Museum director Melissa Matuscak Alan, and former Rabbit Island residents Beau Carey, Nich McElroy, and Josefina Muñoz—spent seven weeks reviewing applications and deliberating internally, finally awarding residencies to the six artists featured below.

The process for this years program was especially challenging due to the quality and thoughtfulness of applications. This is how we worked: After researching each proposal in detail and hosting several long discussions, the committee created a list of 10 finalists. Each of the finalists were then interviewed in a 20 minute videoconference during which committee members and applicants asked questions of each other. The six-person committee then continued discussing the quality of each artist’s previous work, conceptual strength of their proposal, its relationship to both the Rabbit Island program and wider contemporary issues, and the artist’s ability to demonstrate competence in the wilderness environment. It is safe to say all 10 finalists interviewed were deserving of a residency, but due to limitations related to our annual funding, maintaining the ecological integrity of the island environment, and the brief summer period on Lake Superior, the committee made the challenging decision to award four residencies. This conclusion was reached after a thoroughly democratic numerical voting process.

Interestingly, and also unintentionally, the six awarded residents make up three collaborative twosomes. It will be interesting to see how small group dynamics—in each case strongly established through previous shared projects—are manifested within the wilderness environment of Rabbit Island.

The committee sincerely thanks each applicant who offered exceptional work and a carefully considered proposal. We are excited to be working with the following artists over the next year. This year we choose to share the awarded proposals in full—providing the community a peek at the critically rigorous, thoughtful, and adventurous proposals we receive. While the time leading up to their residency and experience on the island may transform the original concepts and methods of our awarded residents, the 700+ applications we have received over the last four residency calls offer a facinating glimpse at the state of today’s discourse on the intersection of art and ecology.

Julieta Aguinaco and Sarah Demoen. After meeting at the Dutch Art Institute in 2013, Aguinaco (Mexico City, Mexico) and Demoen (Brussels, Belgium) have worked collaboratively since. By combining their respective interests in performance and writing, their works often question and challenge notions of institutionalized art and politics. Together they have recently presented work in Mexico City, Mexico; Berlin, Germany; and Arnhem, The Netherlands.

Their statement and proposal:

Julieta Aguinaco and Sarah Demoen met in 2013 at the Dutch Art Institute, and have been working collaboratively since. In her individual practice, Julieta focuses on non-linearity, questioning where to place things that do not match the hierarchical, categorical system that dominates our ways of knowing. She researches the geological history of the earth and the land we walk on and tries to destabilize the notion of private property in light of non-western cosmovisions. Sarah has an interest in the history of resistance and alternative ways of institutionalizing. In this, she tries to critically disrupt preconceived notions about art, politics (social movements) and ownership, primarily through language.

In their joint practice, Julieta and Sarah combine their respective research interests into a dynamic discourse resulting in writing and performance. In a constant to and fro, they discuss their issues of concern directing critical questions at each other and the world, driven by a strong focus on process. They take on roles: where Julieta is the artist, Sarah is the anti-artist; where Julieta looks for visibility, Sarah is looking for abandoned places outside of the attention economy. Together, they create a philosophical form of theater, where poetics and fiction could be a way to withdraw from the linear world. They are convinced that alternatives can be found in the paradoxes, in non-linearity; in that what’s easily ignored.

An important question running through their work is: what can be named and known without undoing or destroying that same thing? In previous works they discussed the desert landscape and the influence of human colonization; the question: ‘you don’t find a different paradigm, we make it!’ and the idea of utopia as immanent in the here and now, and not as some far-fetched idea in the future.

When You Cut into the Present, the Future Leaks Out (working title)

’It is not yours,’ the one-eyed woman said with the mildness of utter certainty. ‘Nothing is yours. It is to use. It is to share. If you will not share it you cannot use it.’ (The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin)

The fresh water cephalopod could be an animal that lives in the depths of Lake Superior. It would have eight inky legs, a giant head, a glimmering opacity and the skills to survive in waters with a very low oxygen level. Its shape could be amorphous; radiating with pink, blue and yellow colors as the cephalopod takes on the role as the overarching umbrella for a small but vibrant community of corpuscles that constitute the shapeless blob. Creatures crawling, swimming and climbing through and over and into one another, sharing space and place without appropriating it. There is no pecking-order here, no room for dichotomies, no hierarchy. This lot can become anything and commit to everything. (i) At present, this taxon of cephalopods does not exist. Nor in the Great Lakes, nor in any other fresh water pool in the world. However, millions of years ago, the area where Rabbit Island is located used to be a shallow sea, with salt water. (ii) Who can claim then that there was never an octopus seen on the shores of Lake Superior? 

What once was, could become again, and even grow beyond itself. Speculation and fictionalization offer a key for past, present and future to come together in a non-linear way; where diverse, collective forms of living and paradoxes are embraced. The way the not-yet-existent fresh water cephalopod would live, with and through multiple other organisms, constructs an image of what a possible future world could be. But to summon the fictive fresh water cephalopod into a future life form, a method is needed. We believe Rabbit Island is the place for developing that method as it has hardly been touched or modified by human hands.

American poet William S. Burroughs’ famous quote: ‘When you cut into the present, the future leaks out’, could bring that future cephalopod to life. The sentence refers to the cut-up technique in poetry and literature, where parts of text are literally cut out, mixed up and ordered into new texts. This aleatory method of collecting and rearranging pieces of the present through a creative process, allows for chance to enter the work, not in an undetermined way, but as a factor that doesn’t ignore the paradoxes inherent to existence. Paradoxes are often discarded as redundant, for in their complexity, they do not offer straightforward and easy answers. We believe that exactly in those paradoxes there might be some possibilities for a future ‘to leak out’. We do aim for a different future than the one at present: a future devoid of the consequences of global warming, devoid of the destructive forces of the neoliberal economy where 1% of the world population has access to all wealth, and devoid of an oversimplified vision of complex dimensions.

To collect the material for the cut up method, we will set up The RI-School - a place for epistemic disobedience. (iii) The RI-school will make it possible to take a class with plant and fish, soil and rock. It will organize courses, lectures and field trips on the island for H2O, nonvascular plants, vertebrates and anthropoids. We are aware that this way of gathering knowledge through a school is an anthropocentric, western manner, that will lead to bringing human-inspired subjective findings to the mainland. Also, many ‘alternative’ forms of knowledge are already inherent to this area as indigenous people have been roaming these waters for centuries. How can we – through this known educational format – learn from the island’s clarifying content? If we want to understand and translate an alternative knowledge, we need to epistemologically disobey; to deliberately undermine the western structures we have been brought up with. A rebelliousness towards that system of dual categorization, of hierarchy and ownership, we know and live in. Could this island give us a different understanding of the larger contingencies happening on the mainland?

Practically, the classes, seminars and field trips are documented through sound recording and our written notes. We will be recording some typical sounds of nature: wind in a tree, the flapping of a bird’s wings, hands digging a hole, the insect’s buzz, etc. Not to romanticize nature - with a beautiful sunset always comes a group of bloodsucking mosquitoes - but to give it a voice in the conversation. Also, we will record the noise we make during class, the sound of written words read out loud to the land, to the water, to each other. There will be discussions about forms of resistance in nature and culture alike, renewal through fictionalization, the potency of mimicry and theories of exit. The selected texts will handle the story of the non-existent fresh water cephalopod, they will question us setting up a school on an island without an invitation from that island, and whether to get to know each other is also to eventually destroy each other? Next to our own essays and scribbles and the island’s contributions, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness by Donna Haraway will function as a basic textbook, as she talks of the impossibility to split between nature and culture. The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin will be another study-book as it deals with the discrepancy between two planets, one capitalist, earth-like, the other anarchist, arranged as a place of equality and solidarity. This overload of different materials is necessary to make the collection of present material for an aleatory purpose, constructing a constellation from which a possible future might leak out.

Since the island remained untouched by human colonization of land and resources, it symbolizes a pre-capitalist world and is therefore indispensable for research into different ways of living. As an epitome of larger society, its land, water and species have the capacity to re-map past, present and future. We think our collection of sound pieces and text, where nature and culture are protagonists alike, through the cut up technique, could bring that potential into the larger world, where there is a pressing need for a leak of another future than the one we are heading towards. We want that utopian cephalopod to become alive, not as some far-fetched forthcoming ideal, but here and now, starting at Lake Superior.

The final outcome is a soundscape which we will present in the small forest outside of the museum. The soundscape contains the information gathered through the RI-school, cut up and edited into complex layers of sound fragments containing text, different voices, recordings from the seminars and natural sounds form the island. This sound piece will enter into a conversation with the noises and voices that surround the museum. In addition, we will do a small performance as we will take a class with the local ‘fouled’ nature. Inside the museum, a publication with our notes and texts and drawings from the time on the island will form another element of the work. This ‘textbook’ is freely available, for as mentioned in the above quote: ‘nothing is ever yours, it is to use, to share’. What else is the point of working towards a future ideal if it is not shared, used and altered; no one owns the future.

Rachel Pimm and Jasmine Johnson. London-based Pimm and Johnson met during their MFA studies at Goldsmiths University. Collaboratively they assist each other in the realization of their individual works, and collectively as part of the group MoreUtopia!, of which they are members. Both work across disciplines utilizing video, writing, performance, drawing, and sculpture to investigate complex systems both artificial and natural. Recent program participations and exhibitions include the Serpentine Gallery, Chisenhale Gallery, Jerwood Visual Arts, and Bloomberg New Contemporaries.

Their statement and proposal:

Johnson & Pimm are partners who both live and work in London, where they met during an MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College, London. Since 2011 they have collaborated unofficially on each others’ individual projects and officially as two members of MoreUtopia! including a recent solo exhibition at ANDOR, London (2016).

Rachel Pimm works in sculpture, video, writing and performance to make work that explores ecosystems and their materiality, both natural and artificial, often from the point of view of non-human agents, such as plants, worms, water, gravity or rubber. American architect and urbanist Keller Easterling described her recent work Polymethyl Methacrylake as a ‘plastic fossils as the new confetti of empire or geological traces suspended in a matrix of global currents’.

Jasmine Johnson works in video, sculpture and drawing. Recent work explores modes of escape and wildness as a progressive prospect, playing to the propensity of individuals and societies to consult the ‘then’ and ‘there’ for clues for how to negotiate the ‘here’ and ‘now’. An ongoing series of video works stem from encounters that Johnson has had with individuals in different locations (UK, Russia, Lithuania and India) who then become central characters in the work. 

Interrelations between an ancient tablet with prophetic instructions and a formula for painting with electricity form the basis of SURFACE NORMALS, a CGI video work and series of copper conductive paintings, which explore recorded manifestations of human presence and time passing on in its widest sense.

The outside face, the uppermost or most superficial layer, the cosmetic skin of something. To surface is to uncover, or to come to the top.

Usual, typical, expected state, or a term in geometry which refers to the rising and falling of a level on a plane. In CGI modelling, this is a word describing the approximate value used to calculate the image of surfaces.

In every specific location there is a conflation of histories, economies, mythologies, politics, matter and movement. For Rabbit Island, itself a volcanic remnant of a tectonic shift, these consist as a web of intricately connected links to water, trade routes, national boundaries and the extraction of resources. Mining on the copper rich ridge of the neighbouring Keweenaw Peninsula played a pivotal role in human history and technology, the successful extraction of which played a large part in making Europe rich.

Operating under the Rabbit Island’s policy of ‘leave no trace’, we will respond to the movements and extractions following a local myth that originates from archaeological fragments dated to the Bronze Age rumoured to have been lost along with an unknown quantity of missing copper in the waters of Lake Superior. Among which, the Newberry Tablet (circa 3000 BC, discovered in 1890, Michigan) is said to prove Pre-Columbian contact with Europe and now resides in the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing.

In 1890, James Scotford, a sign painter from Edmore, MI, claimed he had found a number of artifacts, including clay cups and carved tablets, with symbols on their surfaces resembling hieroglyphics. Nearly 3000 relics appeared to suggest that ancient Near Eastern civilisations had lived in the state of Michigan, evidencing Pre-Columbian contact with Europe. Using trade routes galvanized for mining, Scotford sold and transported the 3000 artifacts out from the area including the Newberry Tablet. One archaeologist translated the symbols on the tablet as an ancient Hittite-Minoan formula for getting good luck from the gods. According to another translation, the symbols were describing a bird eating grain. Most of the relics were widely discredited due to symbols not matching with the Minoan symbols of the period, marks being clearly made by more modern tools, or hieroglyphics with characters that were upside-down. In 1911, Scotford’s stepdaughter signed an affidavit stating that she had actually seen him making the objects. The Newberry Tablet was lost for many years and when it resurfaced, it had evaded such discrediting. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints kept 797 of the objects including the tablet in the Salt Lake City Museum and gave them up to the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing where they currently reside.

SURFACE NORMALS poses the possible translations of the Newberry Tablet as two viewpoints on this legacy of copper and water, and the ways in which human activity and natural resources are increasingly hybridised: 1. It’s a formula for good luck, 2. It’s about a bird eating grain (or 3. it’s not translatable). We propose to create work that does not leave a trace in the physical makeup of Rabbit Island, but maps onto it a digital path mimicking the flow of water, or the hyperspeed of the conductivity of energy through copper. On our way to Rabbit Island, at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing we will photograph the Newberry Tablet from every angle. Using macro photographs and lighting techniques to reveal surface phenomena as light and shadows carve forms into two-dimensional digital planes. Using CGI video and copper conductive paintings we will translate the landscape, conflating the objects of water and copper; into a formula for good luck, or narrative about a bird eating grain.

As ‘peak’ copper mining approaches, it seems prescient to consider the scarcity of natural resources including freshwater and copper, both finite and in decline, and actively fought for in the post-industrial environment of global capitalism. The ‘hyperobjects’ of copper (found in home appliances, telephone communications, the internet) and water, both travel along ancient trade routes established in the Great Lakes around Rabbit Island. Local copper is repeatedly melted and reformed. The hydro cycle of the Great Lakes, feeding rivers and aquifers fluctuate cyclically but are also recently subject to dramatic evaporation and increased demand. Six of the warmest years on record there have occurred in the last decade. Lakeside home owners extend their jetties to reach the ever receding water. Freightliners run aground, forcing traders to lessen their loads, losing billions of dollars per annum.

A formula for good luck: Copper conductive paint is comprised of copper sulphate solution (commonly industrially produced for weeding and keeping algae out of ponds), water heated to 70 degrees celsius and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The local sourcing of which will comprise part of our field research on Rabbit Island. The formula works through suspension of copper nanoparticles in the solution of water. The application of pressure by a metal tool or a press to paint after it has dried enhances conductivity and durability - a process re-enacting the forces of geology itself, making the surface shine with the familiar glow of copper. Utilising of make-shift technologies for electricity in the off-grid context of Rabbit Island, and providing an immediate medium in which to work with whilst providing a form in order to begin constructing the CGI video. Once the paintings are completed we will experiment with different types of circuitry, to make the copper conductive paint perform (i.e. with lighting or sound).

A bird eating grain has the potential to transport plant life in the form of seeds over oceans and expanses of land. It is an analogy and maps out another perspective, an impossible as-the-crow-flies viewpoint of a migrating animal, the trade path of a cargo vessel or an explorer’s ship, a satellite or drone view over the Great Lakes, an electron in a single amp of conductive energy along a copper path, or a camera in a computer generated image. This second translation has the role of the overview perspective and can ascend and cover unimaginable distances over the landscape, its historicities and its ecosystems.

In SURFACE NORMALS the Newberry Tablet is a location in itself, a world-sized object that exists in multiple time-zones, whether an archaeological forgery or a genuine object imbued with narratives of human and material movement. From the off-grid location of Rabbit Island we utilise the natural resources of water and copper to understand the notion of the wilderness and connectivity as a whole.

Mirko Winkel and Martin Schick. Coming from a visual arts background, Winkel (East Germany) has collaborated on several occasions with dance/performance artist Martin Schick (Switzerland). Recent performances have been staged throughout Europe including MANIFESTA 11 2016, the 9th Istanbul Biennial, FRINGE Beijing, and Kiasma Helsinki. Both look to transform and challenge the conventions in theater and public space.

Their statement and proposal:

Our reflections about our new project NATURE POLITICS are the result of our artistic practices: we investigate alternative thinking and acting within contemporary society. We want to transform the social architectures and the control systems and move them into changeable material.  

Art is the place where society can be re-negotiated without boundaries, where we can dare to think the impossible and improbable, even to allow those utopias to coexist and to try them out together with an audience. The liveness and liveliness are crucial to our work. Performance is a way of experiencing a proposal. A method that might inspire processes of the real world. Our projects attempt to connect with political, educational or institutional organisms, extending and radicalizing the performative, getting rid of the representational position and have an impact on contemporary society.  

We seek to move our work to uncanny places, to environments that provoke unusual questions and challenge them in their functionality and implicitness. Spatial practice is where we meet and this is where the representation becomes a challenge. 


During our residency period on Rabbit Island we plan to construct a new performative work which shall be called »Nature Politics«. This is a practical investigation and a rehearsal for a new performance art work. We plan to build an experimental setup and discussions between living human beings and »natural objects«. The aim of this laboratory on site is to develop a vision for a new society and to design techniques and procedures to make this new society happen.

The French theorist and philosopher Bruno Latour developed a concept of a radical democracy. He wants to leave behind the old opposition between subjects and objects, between humans and non-humans – so called »things«. Things have become hybrids, mixed beings. According to him people and things are extremely entangled with each other. We humans depend on them, they affect us. Together we form collectives with a common destiny. Examples can be found in the medical system: The AIDS virus, the homosexuals, the virologists, the drug – they all form such an association of people and non-human beings. Or: If we look at street traffic: Speed bumps, traffic planners, cars and their drivers form another collective. Or: The Internet of Things. The more advanced the technology, the more things and people are confused.

But we still treat technology as a monster. Monsters are constructions of technical objects, which are regarded as manageable and predictable. This is the figure of the cyborg, celebrated by postmodernism. Hybrids, on the other hand, are mixtures of human and nonhuman beings that are not controllable, which are dynamic. And so they demand respect. Only when we socialize technical innovation, we transform monsters into beings. This also means making them subject to the democratic decision.

However, this interdependence between material and humans is not limited to economic or social progress or technology. Humans have always formed communities and alliances with the surrounding nature, since thousands of years actually. These communities appear to have fallen into oblivion. But maybe through our relational structure with new technology, we can re-access the connection to natural elements. Ecology is all about beings that depend on us, forests, waters, animals.

We must decide on a global scale. In which kind of nature do we want to live? Our world is a huge laboratory in which many crazy people are experimenting. We work on all sorts of dangerous things without asking the involved »things« for consent. The meat and bone meal or the cows were probably not asked for their opinion before it all lead to mad cow disease. In order to realign power structures we must rethink the institutions. The question now is which policy suits this situation. What institutions do we need for democratic nature politics. Who are the new parliamentarians and who the new lobbyists. We need to clarify who is part of the arena. The »parliament of things« might restore the balance between people and nonhuman beings.

Our work on Rabbit Island could be an example for his. First, we want to map all living and non-living beings there – everything in real or approximate numbers. This is the comprehensible society of Rabbit Island. Who might be their representatives? In an inaugural assembly, we will develop a
Charta of the fundamental rights that includes all parties. How does a constitution look like, that includes every fly, grain of sand, bush plant. We develop a fictive script of this first assembly, a portrait of the different parties and reenact possible conflicts. This will be the material for an exhibition with a performative setup, presenting results of this experiment.

The island and our procedure of a fictive listening to the different voices of nature stands exemplarily for a bigger society and a growing interest in wilderness, complex politics and alternatives and performative forms of negation.

Our 2017 program is made possible with support from the MCACA (Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs) and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Our first artist-in-residence for the 2016 program was the poet from Ohio, F. Daniel Rzicznek. Beginning June 21st and ending July 4th, Dan explored the island and surrounding lake, occasionally swatting early-season black files on calm days and seeking shelter from pitched rain on the not-so-calm. His experience was interspersed with a few trout fishing trips on Lake Superior guided by our neighbor and friend across the bay, Scott Hannula, birdwatching around camp, daily chores, and quiet moments afforded by remote island life.

Dan arrived with the singular goal of completing his 365 poem epic “Leafmold”. Over 14 days alone he completed poems 326 through 364, concluding the project with a final poem written in Ohio while reflecting on his residency in the months that followed. The series of poems created on Rabbit Island will be published in a variety of literary journals and publications over the coming months. Dan graciously shared a selection of three with us here.

Dan also offered thoughts on his time in residence in the form of a list, 13 Things, which serves as a candid portrait of island life that will surely enlighten future visitors.

13 Things

If a bald eagle lands in a white pine near camp and checks you out, do not look away.

Keep a record of everything you see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and feel. You’ll want it later.

Befriend the locals. They will save your life and sanity in more ways than you thought possible.

When Andrew casually drops that the eastern side of the island is an impassable labyrinth of forest and rock, he means it.

Be not convinced of your own intellectual superiority to that of black flies.

Existing on the island is the easiest part of the experience. It’s nearly paradise, and therefore not to be trusted. In turn, reentry into civilized society is the most difficult aspect, even if you’re fortunate enough to find rest at the Cedar Motor Inn in Marquette.

Never set an alarm clock on the island, unless for stargazing in the middle of the night.

You can get by for two weeks on four pairs of socks without using the fourth pair.

Be careful climbing backstage at the auditorium. Ask Penny.

Getting water, gathering wood, and drinking tea all use the same muscles.

If it gives you genuine, lasting pleasure and comfort, bring it with you to the island. Books filled that role for me. Vodka, too. And dry-aged salami. Also, maple syrup.

On the island, you are miles and miles from anything you know. And it is okay. It is all right. You will sleep the deepest, quietest sleep of your particular life.

There’s no preparing for it, but your definition of waste will be rewritten.

– F. Daniel Rzicznek, 26 October 2016

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