Event photography by Rafael Hernandez, Fía Benitez, and Simone Zapata. Installation images by Evan Walsh.
“Space is not a static field. It does not wait for our offerings or our movements. It is not blank and has never been blank. Spaces moan. They are of another order.”
—Renee Gladman, from the Bagley Wright Lecture “Lines into Grasses”
Tense Renderings: the will and won’t of spatial logics began as a series of conversations between a poet and a visual artist, examining the intersections of our respective practices. Simone’s previous research attended to how the syntax and systems of language simulate presence—prompted by her aunt’s lived experience with schizophrenia and state-sanctioned early death. Fía’s ongoing body of work Root Rot engages the archival and site-specific legacy of colonialism through its material vestiges, including land grant maps, citrus crate labels, and photographs.
We found shared meaning in the physical and cognitive act of tracing, challenging the purported objectivity of documents, and investigating the function of absent referents in visual and textual language. To render space is to abstract it; and this abstraction has profound implications for how we experience the worlds we live in. Although the practice of cartography extends over eighteen thousand years into the past, in more recent history, maps have also served as tools for the Western imagination to differentially author and surveil land and body. But these spaces of dwelling exceed their governing logics, interrupt the map’s attempt for fidelity. How do the spaces we harbor refuse their representation?
As a homonym, Tense Renderings both problematizes the act of rendering, and accounts for the temporality of such renditions. Here, fourteen artists across disciplines and time zones come together to interrogate the motivations, conditions, and limitations of maps and mapmaking. We invite viewers to engage the multivalent—and sometimes dialectic—quality of the works on display: the circumstances of existing in multiple places at once, the intimate reverberations of violent infrastructure, claims to and against contested territories, and the recursive reification and disavowal of institutionalized belonging.
If space is never—has never been—blank, we are thus faced with an accumulation of history and futurity. A simultaneous spillage and consumption. A tearing, a stitching, an insistent probing—from our repulsive ruptures and our quietest corners.