Palimpsests of Place

Echoes of the Blank Slate in the Urban Landscape

The Craft Council Gallery of Newfoundland & Labrador has invited me to open a solo exhibition in August 2021. The overarching theme of Palimpsests of Place considers how urban environments are manipulated and shaped. My process of apprehending inscriptions and boundary marks found on-site explores patterns of impermanence perpetuated by technological developments in the production of space.

The exhibition explores how urban frameworks engender a provisional landscape—one which, according to contemporary philosopher Bernard Stiegler, is relentlessly manipulated by “technological beings” whose settlement and migration patterns are programmed to deplete the earth’s resources, including the availability of fertile land. Absence of place is a common narrative throughout much of the work, conveying notions of “rationality” in the market, and how urban frameworks, born of capitalism, “seek to make space a blank slate upon which the agents of capital—merchants, industrialists, financiers, real estate agents, corporate executives—can inscribe their plans and desires” (Derek R. Ford).

Palimpsests of Place in the casting process, by Susan Campbell.

In my art and design practice I research the forces at play in the property market, such as the impact of single-family zoning on the landscape, and the resulting loss of farmland. I also observe the financialization of housing and the inequities caused by real-estate hoarding and vacant properties.

The uniformity and homogeneity of the gypsum reliefs (pictured above), molded from granite, asphalt, and concrete surfaces found in various topographic features represents the erasure of vacant land. The process of fabricating such reliefs allows me to envision a series of synthetic topographies where parametric architectures collide and overwhelm the surface. The gypsum reliefs are cast over and over again and arranged into a mass-assembly that conveys the relentless production cycle, colonizing every last square mile of available land and emulating the forces of late capitalism.

Click above image to walk through exhibition in 360 degrees.

The capitalist logics of abstraction seek to make space a blank slate upon which the agents of capital – merchants, industrialists, financiers, real estate agents, corporate executives – can inscribe their plans and desires. It seeks to order space, thereby subjecting it to the ‘rationality’ of the market. It is, however, ‘not homogenous; it simply has homogeneity as its goal, its orientation, its “lens”‘.

Derek R Ford. “Lefebvre and atmospheric production: an architectonics of air” in Leary-Owhin, M. (Ed.), McCarthy, J. (Ed.). (2020). The Routledge Handbook of Henri Lefebvre, The City and Urban Society. London: Routledge.
Artist Talk by Susan Campbell.

Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador, 155 Water Street, St. John’s, NL
Friday, August 27th – Friday, October 1st, 2021

Funding for this exhibition was provided by: