Atomic Highways and Byways
Jan 18 - March 10, 2017
Gallery Hours: M-F 9:00AM - 5:00PM
Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer, Ann Arbor
Lecture by Joan Linder & Paul Vanouse
Jan 18, U-M Museum of Art, 525 S. State, 5pm
Jan 18, Institute for the Humanities, 202 S. Thayer, 6pm (immediately following lecture)
About the exhibition: Artist Joan Linder is best known for her labor-intensive drawings that transform mundane subjects into conceptually rich images. For this exhibition, she focused on a toxic dumping site near Willow Run airport and two near Niagara Falls. Linder draws in her car, and also makes rubbings from the grounds on location. All three drawings will occupy vitrines that also contain an assortment of hand-copied documents relating to the specific context and history of the locations in question. On the walls, there will be two large rubbings: one from a radioactive parking lot on Niagara Falls Boulevard, the other from the place where the radioactive spoils pile was kept before being shipped to Michigan.
Toxic—our relationships to the environment, our communities, and one another rest on a hidden pivot. Like a seesaw, our everyday lives hang in the balance, left in the lurch, unless we are constantly vigilant. There is that we think we know to be true, what they tell us, so we sleep soundly. And then, there is the underbelly of it. Silent yet pervasive as silt, the cumulative baggage follows us around, with the shelf life of 4.5 billion years, just like uranium. We think we’ve put it behind us, cleaned it up, buried it, and we are on top of it.
Until, carelessly coasting down the park hill, we hit the big swerve, and the handlebars knock the wind out of us—the big wipe out.
Joan Linder’s exhibition Atomic Highways and Byways looks at three toxic landscapes—two in Niagara Falls, New York, and the third in Belleville, Michigan. Instrumental in the assembling of the first atomic weapons, Buffalo and Niagara Falls are strewn with radioactive hot spots. Wayne Disposal, in Belleville, Michigan, is a commercial waste landfill, where other states dump their hazardous waste. It is one of nineteen active hazardous waste sites in the country.
For the past three-and-a-half years, Linder has been exploring these Western landscapes, attempting to uncover their toxic history. As part of her project, she recreates through drawing facsimiles of the trail of official documents that trace this dark past just below the surface. The act of drawing itself becomes a means of excavation, finding proof, following the spiral.
Linder also catalogues her observations of these sites with intimate drawings made sitting in her car for hours, bearing witness at a safer distance. The drawings of the Belleville site were created on location during Linder’s 2016 Institute for the Humanities residency. Large scale charcoal rubbings of the grounds also serve as visual artifacts. Through the meticulous hand-drawn network of her marks, Linder investigates the imprints and trappings of both human and manufactured experience, how each place and piece of information is connected, overlapping, and interwoven.
-Amanda Krugliak, Arts Curator, Institute for the Humanities