Josefina Munoz // Santiago, Chile // Artist in Residence 8/8/15 - 9/2/15
The following essay was written by the artist discussing her intention to live in complete isolation on Rabbit Island for several weeks during the summer of 2015. She completed this as part of a larger multi-year conceptual undertaking titled Is_Land. More about this project can be found on the her website, josefinamunoz.net.
After returning to the Keweenaw mainland, Josefina worked as a Visiting Artist at Finlandia University, in Hancock, MI, where she set up a studio and shared her creative process with students and faculty while she prepped for the annual residency exhibition.
Prior to arriving on Rabbit Island Josefina spent 10 months living in Kenya completing field research for a project and exhibition about the Turkana nomads of northwest Kenya.
Everything refers in fact to the differentiation which makes possible the isolation and interplay of distinct spaces. From the distinction that separates a subject from its exteriority to the distinctions that localize objects, from the home (constituted on the basis of the wall) to the journey (constituted on the basis of a geographical “elsewhere”), from the functioning of the urban network to that of the rural landscape, there is no spatiality that is not organized by the determination of frontiers. - Michael de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 1984
As we migrated through the Lokwanamoru Mountains, I could understand that we were transiting through a context of rare, yet impeccable state of total isolation. Only the materiality of a few elements could reveal that we were in the 21st century: a plastic jerrycan to carry water, tier-rubber sandals, or the industrially loomed kitenge garment (1). Everything else was carefully handcrafted from wood and leather, as so were the traditions and cultural system. The scene could only be framed in a different time period; ages back.
Living with the Turkana nomads (2) allowed me to gain a new understanding of the concept of space, place, and habitability. Likewise, the remoteness of the Ilemi Triangle (3) epitomized the notion of isolation as an enduring imprint within my creative vocabulary. Somehow, while rambling through this dry and hot Sub-Saharan region I felt like an islander, in the reign of a borderless land, merely signified by twig bomas (4), utterly absent of any permanent demarcation.
The possibility of studying real insular isolation grew as an idea until it took the form of a multistep research, residency, and exhibition initiative. I have called this project Is_Land. Adhering to the premise that an island can be a geographical territory surrounded by water, but also a metaphor of sociocultural global issues, the Is_Land project focuses on a comparative analysis between the remotest inhabited island in the world, Tristan da Cunha, and other islands with unique features.
The fundamental question is to define whether a detached landmass can act as a mirror of our larger society, or if an island is an exception to the general rules that currently structure our world.
Rabbit Island, an uninhabited, pristine speck of protected land in the middle of a lake in North America, will be the first step in the process. While at Rabbit Island I will be exposed to complete solitude for around a month. The idea is to be alone. No reading, no music, no talking, no art making, no nothing. The goal is to use time exclusively to embrace the sense of solitude and to explore the island as a concept: as a space, as a place, as a metaphor.
Is_Land is an enticement to rethink the way we inhabit land and how we conceive of space – in the multifaceted sense of the concept, as defined by writers Carol Becker and Yi-Fu Tuan as a set of relations which not only refer to a material condition, but also to a complex sociocultural schema.
As I prepare to head to Rabbit Island, I can’t avoid thinking about the way spatiality is organized by frontiers (de Certeau), and how one should approach a borderline. Now, even if the assertion given by divortium aquarum seems respectable (5), I want to fully comprehend the essence of the immediate water boundary that delineates the land. The tide, the wave, and the current, all permeable topographical elements that demarcate space, are not equivalent to those imposed by humans—the wall, the fence, the line. Yet, how can we entirely apprehend these natural or human-imposed perimeters?
At the end, the examination of an island–the land, the isolation, the concept, the perimeter–is nothing more (and nothing less) than a symbol for the examination of the distinction that divorces the object or subject (island or human) from its exteriority (world). Still, as stated by English poet John Donne, and sang by many through Dennis Brown’s classic reggae tune, no man is an island (…) every man is a part of the main.
1) Kitenge: Colorful and highly patterned fabric used in East Africa.
2) The Turkana people live in northwest Kenya, averaging a population of around 900 thousand people. Traditional Turkana families nowadays live as nomadic pastoralists, migrating according to water-access necessities.
3) Ilemi Triangle: Disputed land between Kenya Ethiopia and South Sudan, covering over 5,000 square miles.
4) Boma: Swahili term used to describe branch enclosures constructed in the form of fences that conceal cattle or housing.
5) Divortium aquarum: Latin concept employed to describe the boundaries delineated by bodies of water.
RABBIT ISLAND 2015: RESIDENCY EXHIBITION
September 25th 6-8pm
DeVos Art Museum (Map)
The Rabbit Island Residency, located on a remote island in Lake Superior, unofficially launched in 2010. For the last four years the DeVos Art Museum has partnered with the Residency to present public programs and exhibitions featuring the artists in residence from the current summer.
This exhibition marks the second year offering artists supported residencies from an open call for applications. Artists and designers from 31 countries working in visual art, literature, music and performance submitted over 200 applications and project ideas. The 2015 exhibition highlights the work of five artists, composers and writers selected for supported residencies this year. Each resident spent 2—4 weeks on the island between June and September. All artists will be in attendance for the show opening.
The work displayed is a mix of previous work informing the artist’s practice leading up to the residency and new work created while in residence or immediately after. Hand drawn sketches and musical compositions made on the island, in-progress drawings and paintings that were continued after the residency and lightboxes made in the few weeks before the exhibition demonstrates the powerful impact this unique residency experience has on creative practice.
Eugene Birman and Scott Diel were the first residents of 2015, arriving in June and staying for over two weeks. Birman is a Latvian-born composer based in Oakland, California. He received his M.M. in Music Composition from the Juilliard School, a B.A. in Economics from Columbia, and recently received a D.Phil in Musical Composition from Oxford University. Diel is an American-born writer based in Tallinn, Estonia, who has freelanced widely. The two have previously collaborated on several operas to critical acclaim. Their recent work, Nostra Culpa, eclectically weaves together the global debate surrounding post-financial crash austerity and a Twitter feud between a Nobel laureate columnist from the New York Times and the president of Estonia. Their unlikely inspiration results from a desire to step away from the formal opera genre and engage a wider audience with classical music that investigates contemporary issues. The exhibition will feature a continuous screening of Nostra Culpa as well as sketches from a new opera about economic disparity titled State of the Union. State of the Union will debut in Marquette in September 2016, performed by the Helsinki Chamber Choir (Helsinki, Finland).
Beau Carey, a landscape painter from Albuquerque, New Mexico, spent nearly three weeks on the island in July. Carey embeds himself in challenging environments to experience and record a sense of place, often uncovering historical and contemporary issues through his interaction with landscape. Carey has travelled extensively to remote places to pursue such practice, including the Arctic Circle in Norway and Denali National Park. He has created bodies of work set in ecologically contentious open spaces such as the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Carey received an MFA from the University of New Mexico, where he currently teaches.
Israeli composer and performer Noam Enbar spent over two weeks in residence in late July. Based in Tel Aviv, Enbar formed anti-establishment band Habiluim in 2003, which became one of the main radical voices in the Israeli music scene. Enbar’s many musical projects, choral-theatrical pieces and inventive, starkly political works in collaboration with filmmaker Avi Mograbi have been performed at festivals, theaters and museums in Israel and across Europe. While in residence Enbar composed a five-piece songbook that spotlights the intersection of the political and spiritual within society. Based on writings from past Rabbit Island residents, books of poems found in the Rabbit Island library and writings by close friends, Enbar composed each song to be sung by a group of Marquette residents. The compositions are written in the style of shape notes, created in New England in the early 19th century for community singing.
Josefina Muñoz, is a multi-disciplinary artist from Santiago, Chile, was the final resident, spending nearly a month on the island in near isolation. Muñoz often works nomadically, creating pieces in and about the environments she encounters. Josefina’s seemingly disparate projects focusing on material, architecture, location, and culture come together in an overarching impulse to answer questions of global concern. Josefina’s ambitious research project Is_Land will take her to Rabbit Island, Scotland, Chiloé, and Tristan da Cunha–the most remote settled island in the world. Her goal is to create a critical body of work informed by numerous manifestation of the island concept: as space, culture, and metaphor. Muñoz received an MFA in glass from the Rhode Island School of Design.
A full color catalogue, designed by Edwin Carter, will be available in the museum. This exhibition is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Noam Enbar is a composer and performer from Tel Aviv, Israel. He lived and worked on Rabbit Island between July 21st and August 8th, 2015. While in residence he composed five works that will be premiered at the 2015 Rabbit Island Exhibition opening at the DeVos Art Museum in Marquette, MI, on September 25th at 7pm. These are some of his initial thoughts, which he recently sent to us.
Rabbit Island was kind to me. The Keweenaw gods made sure we had perfectly calm weather and occasionally blessed us with a pleasant breeze to drive off the big, black, malignant flies. After two days on the Island I had already composed my first piece: Come Fill the Cup, based on “Rubaiyat”, a series of rhymed quatrains by the 11th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam.
This was a great start–writing something so simple and yet artistically satisfying. It was an easy-to-sing four part anthem in the spirit of the American Sacred Harp tradition, however, based on this ancient and provocative-for-its-time sacrilegious text. I composed it in one go on the elevated tree platform located in the island’s interior which was built by artist Andrew Ranville. In the following days I composed the humorous piece “And the Astronomer Shall Dwell with the Agronomist” in my new studio, a desk and bench outside the Island’s sauna, near both water and woods.
By now, after several days in residence, I was thinking more of the possible links between my work and the actual physical circumstances surrounding me. These first two songs where great, yes, however, as I became more familiar with the environment I aspired to work with some kind of found material. I therefore started looking for texts in the Island’s library, in the journal which documented the experience of previous residents, and in the past exhibition catalogues.
It was in the 2014 exhibition catalogue that I discovered a text by Dr. Dylan A.T. Miner (Métis), exploring the colonial politics of renaming territory. The text cites the example of Rabbit Island itself being once named by Native Americans as “Ni aazhawa’am-minis” meaning “place of crossing over”. I could easily relate to this text! In my past years as punk-rocker in Israel, I wrote a song in Hebrew addressing an analogous issue: the act of re-naming Palestinian villages and streets by Zionism! This, however, was no text for an anthem or hymn. I wanted the music to express the idea using multiple layers in a less structured way, and a more provisional quality was needed with more autonomy (or better yet, the appearance of autonomy, or the questioning of the possibility of autonomy) for each of the musical layers. I therefore edited a condensed version of Dr. Miner’s text and based my composition on a past masterpiece, Paragraph 7 of the seminal piece for improvisers, “The Great Learning”, by English composer Cornelious Cardew. I kept Cardew’s ingenious format, enabling singers to select with each new word their own pitch based on what they where hearing at that very moment. I used Dr. Miner’s text instead of the original and added some visual representations of suggested ornaments the singers could use.
In my very last day on the island I come back to this idea of “place of passage”. I wanted to draw to a close my time on the island in a ritualistic way, and to celebrate both my own symbolic and literal crossing over. Returning to the tree platform, I staged a private rite, accompanied by music played with a harmonica that I found in the camp kitchen. So, here’s a recording made that day, in the forest. It’s quite long, and perhaps rather personal, but hopefully it conveys something of graceful feelings deriving from rare moments of solitude.
Portrait Photo Credit: Ports Bishop
The following notice was sent to all applicants for 2016 residency on Rabbit Island. Recently we have fielded a few emails from artists asking for confirmation of receipt of application. If you applied and did not receive this email, please contact us.
Thank you for applying to be a resident on Rabbit Island in 2016.
The selection committee has begun the application review process. On Friday, October 16th, we will notify approximately 10 proposals (individual artists and/or collaborative group applications) of “shortlisted” status. Applications not shortlisted will also receive notice on that day informing them of such.
In late October these shortlisted proposals will be scheduled for 30 minute online interviews to further discuss programatic and logistical considerations. Finally, in early November, approximately 4 proposals will be awarded residencies for 2016. Any variation in final number will be based on the number of artists per accepted proposal, our program budget limitations, and the intrinsic sensitivity of the island environment. We will award as many residencies as realistically possible, and will do so in good faith.
This year we received 177 applications from 31 countries. The scope of the applications reflects an amazing variety of ideas related to contemporary social practice, environmental science, global culture, land use, and vivid artistic vision. Now more than ever we are convinced of the fundamental need for the re-evaluation of the place of the artist relative to the wider environmental concept.
We also remind you that your application fee will be used specifically by the Rabbit Island Foundation to support next year’s artists and is fully tax deductible in the United States.
Thank you again. We look forward to reviewing your proposal.
Rabbit Island Residency Selection Committee
We are wrapping up this summer on Rabbit Island in a few weeks. The last artist-in-residence of 2015, Josefina Munoz, returns to the mainland in two days with the arrival of Rabbit Island School, a week-long art and ecology expedition for high school students, co-organized by Summer Journeys. The students will help close down camp over the Labor Day weekend.
At the end of September we will have a series of events featuring our 2015 artists in residence at the DeVos Art Museum in Marquette, Michigan. The exhibition opens on Friday, September 25th. We will be sharing more details very soon.
Photo courtesy of 2015 Resident, Scott Diel.
Applications for summer 2016 residencies are due August 28th. Approximately five artists will be awarded funding to travel to, live on, and make work amongst the forest, rocks and wildlife of Rabbit Island and the vast waters of Lake Superior that surround it. Artists will also be given an exhibition of their work at the DeVos Art Museum in 2017, funding for travel to the opening, and have their work and writing included in the annual exhibition catalog. Artists across all disciplines are encouraged to apply. Find out more Information and submit your proposal at www.rabbitisland.org/art.
Some scenes from the first half of summer on Rabbit Island.
Want to be an artist-in-residence next summer? Our deadline for 2016 applications is August 28th, 2015. Find out more information and submit your proposal at rabbitisland.org/art.