The College of the Redwoods Creative Arts Gallery will present “Between the Bottomlands and the World,” an installation of experimental documentary videos, photographs and narrative writing about Beardstown, Illinois, a rural town transformed by immigration and global agricultural production. The exhibition runs from Sept. 3 to Oct. 3 with a public reception on Sept. 3 from 4 to 6 p.m.
Beardstown is home to enormous agribusiness operations, towering grain terminals and a massive meatpacking plant. Following the research of scholar Faranak Miraftab, Chicago-based artists Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross traveled to this region, documenting its economy, geography and infrastructure, as well as the lives of the people who live and work within this vast agricultural commodity system.
One video in this exhibition, “Submerging Land,” portrays a landscape massively engineered to redirect water for the production of corn, soy and hogs. Another video, “Granular Space,” meditates on the movement and scale of the international grain trade — from a single seed to millions of bushels moved from the field to an ocean-going vessel. A third feature-length film, “Moving Flesh,” chronicles how and why so many people from around the world have come to Beardstown, a formerly all-white town with a history of institutionalized racism.
This exhibition features an abundance of compelling imagery and context for understanding how the industrial food system works. Completed in 2014, “Between the Bottomlands and the World” remains resonant in today’s political climate, given the ongoing debates over immigration, tariffs on international trade and the impact of climate change on agricultural production.
Griffis is associate professor and chair of New Media at the School of Art and Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is currently involved in a number of collaborative research and art projects focused on the political ecology of the Midwest. With Ross, he co-founded Regional Relationships, a platform for visual art and writing that finds connections across cultural and geographical borders and challenges common distinctions between urban and rural spaces.
Ross is an artist who works in sculpture, video and photography. Her projects use narrative and the body to address spatial concerns as they relate to access, class, anxiety and activism. She teaches at The School of the Art Institute Chicago and is a co-organizer of the Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project, an arts and humanities initiative at Stateville Prison.
The Creative Arts Gallery at College of the Redwoods is located on the Eureka Main Campus, North Entrance and is open Monday and Tuesday noon to 4:00 p.m. and by appointment. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.redwoods.edu/artgallery or call the Art Department office at 707-476-4559.