Landscape Studies: New Mexico

Mariam Ghani, Landscape Studies: New Mexico UV photo print
Landscape Studies: New Mexico (1-channel HD video with quadrophonic sound, RT 22:10), 2008-10

Filmed in and around the Galisteo Valley, White Sands Desert, and Route 66 in New Mexico, Landscape Studies: New Mexico is a sort of abstracted pilgrim’s progress through scenes drawn from the region’s histories of exploration, conquest, rodeos, revolts, mining, missile tests, truck stops, film shoots, and participant ethnography. The video is organized into six sections, each associated with one of the directions (east, west, north, south, above, and below) and the color identified with that direction (blue, yellow, red, green, black and white) in the religion of the Tewa people, whose ruined pueblos dot the Galisteo Valley. Like other projects in the series Performed Places, Landscape Studies: New Mexico was developed collaboratively with choreographer Erin Ellen Kelly, with performances largely improvised in response to specific sites, and features a spatialized score by Qasim Naqvi (in this case a quadrophonic score featuring four guitars, each recorded separately), mixed by Andrew Munsey. Both Kelly and Ghani appear as performers in the video.

A 27-minute version of the video, Strangers in a Stranger Land, was developed for a performance at Momenta Art in Brooklyn in 2010. In the performance, the filmed bodies onscreen are confronted with a live body in the space, interacting with the video projection, while both recorded sound samples and live voiceover narration serve to evoke (in)famous strangers in New Mexico’s strange land (J.R. Oppenheimer, J.B. Jackson, Elsie Parsons, Charles Lummis, Howard Cushing), and reference films that have used these places as stages and stand-ins (The Misfits, The Man Who Fell to Earth).

Landscape Studies: New Mexico (Strangers in a Stranger Land) photo-text grid - 40 UV photo prints on aluminum, each 20 x 30 inches
Landscape Studies: New Mexico (Strangers in a Stranger Land) photo-text grid – 40 UV photo prints on aluminum, each 20 x 30 inches, edition of 3; click to enlarge and see individual images

The 40-panel photo-text grid and artist’s book Landscape Studies: New Mexico (Strangers in a Stranger Land) juxtaposes texts written and adapted by Ghani for the voiceover narration for Strangers in a Stranger Land with stills from Landscape Studies: New Mexico.