When moving through a new city, I imagine the forces at work creating the look and feel of the place—some planning committee cerebrally controlling the view and layout. This is true often about the big picture, but the touch of everyday residents has a much bigger impact than we think. Inventive gardeners know this. So do people who paint their houses bright colors. And so does that lady down the street from me with plastic flamingos and light-up peppermint pinwheels in her yard.
Works being shown in Albuquerque right now imagine how much we can impact our world. Two projects displayed together at Alvarado Urban Farm (Downtown between First and Second Streets on Silver) explore human connection and integration with the environment. “Eden Again" imagines us as living machines, an integral part of the machine wilderness—the theme of ISEA 2012. This wastewater art garden places us in a cycle of consumption and waste production, and the sustainable closing of that cycle by the reuse of gray water. The piece has a sister site in Iraq, and imagery from that garden sculpture is part of the work in Albuquerque.
Also at the Urban Farm is "Sound Colony," an acoustic chamber. The human-scaled hive turns the art of beekeeping into an investigation of sound and communication.
Two exhibits at the UNM Art Museum (inside the Center for the Arts on campus) reflect on personal and social change. Transformative Surface, a group exhibition by UNM faculty and guest artists, is also part of ISEA. Videos and sound blend tradition with modernity in large-scale media installations. Most of these are interactive and malleable, echoing the way in which we all contribute to the experience of our collective environment.
The second includes the woodcuts, etchings, lithographs and monotypes of pioneering feminist Joan Snyder. Her work is colorful and abstract, with a sense of movement and playfulness. But that in no way translates to "whimsical." She explores motherhood, sexuality, identity and social injustice. This collection features some of her rarely seen works and unedited prints. Snyder seems to be reflecting on this truth: Any transformation of our world begins inside and moves outward.