Fall 2014 Editor’s Statement

Welcome to the Fall 2014 issue of ARID! This fourth installment of ARID features a wide variety of writings and artworks from photography and video to dance/performance and sound and radio art. Art/science collaboration features prominently in all sections, especially with regard to sustainability. In fact, during the planning and production of this issue, the ARID editorial team became very engaged with the idea of sustainability at both a macro and micro scale. Here we have chosen works that address the sustainability of arid environments in a broad sense, and in a smaller way behind the scenes we have begun to look seriously at the long-term sustainability of the ARID journal itself.

First, the micro-view: the production of the journal has been an overwhelming labor of love. Scholarly publishing is a difficult industry, and publishing an online, free publication does not provide its own means of support. Thanks to a small grant from Metabolic Studios secured by our co-editor Greg Esser over a year ago, ARID has been fortunate to have some production support, and we have been able to make the most of it. The Metabolic Studios funding has allowed us to support promotion, editorial, writing, design, professional copyediting (thanks to Marilyn Welch for this issue), and the exhibition After the Aqueduct at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) organized by Kim Stringfellow in Winter 2015 featuring the work of Kim, Chad Ress, Lauren Bon, Nicole Antebi, Alexander Robinson and Barry Lehrman. This temporary support has been a watershed for ARID, but how can the journal move forward in the long-term? How can we allow for some (or all) free content, while helping those who undertake the massive job of producing and promoting each issue? Can we continue to self-publish? Behind the scenes, we are in discussion with three scholarly publishers internationally who each offer very different models for an online or hybrid online/print journal.

While we haven’t made any radical transformations yet, we have made some significant changes. Most dramatically, with this issue, we are officially transitioning to a yearly publishing schedule. A new ARID will come out once a year. Subscribe and look out for our submission deadline in the spring and new issue each fall. This new schedule allows us more time to find high-quality submissions and to sustain a formal peer review. Which brings me to another change: with this issue we have formalized our peer-review process. Using the open-source ejournal platform generously provided to us by the University of New Mexico libraries, two expert reviewers from our editorial board, William L. Fox and Bill Gilbert, along with co-editors Kim Stringfellow and I, volunteered time to provide scores and feedback on each and every one of the excellent submissions we received. We will continue this review process for future issues, and hope to call upon outside reviewers from our extended family of ARID editors and authors.

For me, the formal peer-review process not only helps to distribute decision-making and labor, making ARID more sustainable in the long-term, but the conversations it inspires helps to define ARID as a reflection of global environments and cultures, giving us a macro-view of the landscape. As the reviews unfolded this summer, a picture of the diversity of visions of ARID’s purpose and future became clear. This diversity is representative of arid regions in general: we are geographically vast and ecologically varied and encompass a great range of ideas and perspectives.

What this multiplicity of vision means to the art and design communities that thrive in arid environments is discussed in the Perspectives section in this issue in an engaging interview with art historian Libby Lumpkin. Libby served as a curatorial consultant for the High Desert Test Sites (HDTS) 2013, an ongoing series of exhibitions and events initiated in 2002 in Joshua Tree by Andrea Zittel. For the first time last year, HDTS expanded across the deserts from Joshua Tree to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although challenging to manage, the expansion of HDTS allowed Libby and others to gain a bird’s-eye perspective of art, design and culture in the context of the arid landscape of the American Southwest, and what emerged was a patchwork of styles and processes as diverse as the cities and towns that hosted the works. It seems impossible to describe a unifying aesthetic of the contemporary American desert Southwest, and even more daunting to contain those creative impulses that fearlessly cross disciplinary boundaries.

When you connect to Libby’s interview, you will see another small change in the journal inspired by the cross-pollination between disciplines and practices that defines the ARID mindset. Within this issue, some contributions link and cross-reference between the four sections: Perspectives, Practices, Policies and Pedagogies. In the interview in Perspectives, Libby discusses the HDTS work of artist and educator Ellen Babcock, and in the Pedagogies section, we feature Ellen’s detailed discussion of her project Trade Winds Sign Rally (that I had the pleasure of participating in!) including the contributions of university and high school students across disciplines and a wonderful video documentation of the culminating collaborative performance at the Octopus Car Wash located in the rapidly transforming International District of Albuquerque New Mexico.

As we reviewed submissions for this issue, we started to notice more and more of these cross-sectional connections. For example, we have linked William L. Fox’s review of Tyler Stallings’ new book Aridtopia in Perspectives to Tyler’s contribution to the Practices section, Becoming Wordless for a Moment. We received an independent submission from Australian artist Sarah Jones called Flamin’ Stars, and later learned that Sarah produced this work while a Dutch Art Institute participant in the TAAK Summer School in Marfa. So, while we feature Sarah’s work in the Practices section, we have also linked it to a sub-section organized by TAAK director Theo Tegelaers in the Pedagogies section. In addition to Sarah’s fascinating work, TAAK offers us five recent works by emerging artist-participants in the Summer School this year.

I had a chance to visit TAAK and stay with the group of over 20 students and faculty in Building 98. Part of the barracks housing Donald Judd’s work managed by the Chinati Foundation, Building 98 housed German POWs during WWII and still contains murals rumored to have been painted by the prisoners. This summer, the tiny courtyard was filled with nearly 20 small green popup tents, home for young artists who traveled to Marfa from places in Europe, Scandinavia, across the U.S., Mexico, Australia and the Middle East to share meals, ideas and produce works in response to the unique landscape and communities that captivated Judd and many other artists throughout history.

We initially created the Pedagogies section in part because the majority of our editorial team is based at educational institutions, but more importantly because we see very exciting new field-based pedagogies emerging in desert environments. As with the TAAK Summer School, these field experiences regularly attract students from all over the world, especially those from more densely populated urban areas hungry for big skies and open spaces. Because the fragile ecologies in desert environments are changing so rapidly with anthropogenic climate change, long-established art and design field programs like Land Arts of the American West have naturally integrated ecological research with aesthetic practice. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change are now becoming clear in temperate environments that were thought to be more stable, and educators creating art, design and ecology programs worldwide are looking to the lessons learned in field programs established in arid environments, including those in the north and south polar regions.

Responding to rapid climate change through art and design research inevitably leads one to consider art/science collaboration. While we don’t see art/science collaboration as a requirement for inclusion in ARID, we have found that many of our contributors are crossing that great divide, almost as easily as they transverse disciplines within fine art and design, and that the results are challenging our perceptions of arid environments. We originally designed the Policies section to highlight the role that art and design has played in the creation and evaluation of policies related to arid environments. As submissions came in, it became clear that many projects that related to policy involved art/science collaboration, and that in many cases, rather than draw a line clearly advocating for one or another specific policy, the projects served to express the complexity of the issues.

The Edge of Light in this issue is a good example of the kind of complex questions ARID’s Policies section highlights. Although on the surface one might think this work was created in response to the issue of light pollution, in conversation with the authors, it became clear to me that the real political undertone of the project is the economic division between Wendover, Utah, and West Wendover, Nevada. The artificial light reveals this division. The incredible glow of the West Wendover casino strip and its suburban-style streets contrasts with the near darkness of the structures clustered around the former Air Force base in Wendover. Economic decline manifests itself in relative darkness, and according to the authors, looking at artificial light serves as a metric for the differences between two conjoined towns.

Peter Goin and Scott Hinton’s contribution Visualizing Post-Fire Landscapes very clearly illustrates a way in which art/science collaboration can help communicate the important and often politically controversial issue of fire and its aftermath. The project brings up the issues of photographic evidence, making a strong case that art does matter to environmental research. In contrast, The Discarded Museum in this issue illustrates a different approach. In this case, the author defines the project as art/science due to a close collaboration with the environmental team of the City of Palmdale, but emphasized to me that despite a large amount of overlap, the outcomes of this project are more heavily arts-based than science-based. Can we say then that the science matters to this arts-based research? Many of our authors might agree, for example Paul Catanese’s Visible From Space project in the Practices section is emblematic of the influence remote viewing of the landscape has had on the aesthetic development of arid environments. The historical land artists Smithson, Turrell and even Judd have all referenced the profound effects of an aerial perspective. Undoubtedly we will see more contributions to ARID related to space science and industry as hacked personal drones become ubiquitous in our terrain (especially in the border region), and as the first commercial spaceport in the world, Virgin Galactic in New Mexico, launches artists and designers into space.

Ultimately ARID is a journal of art, design and ecology. While we have received several very high-quality scientific submissions, we make sure that every article or project we publish is at its heart a work of art and/or design, and every section adheres to that focus. As educators in art and design we don’t see a need to separate teaching or curriculum design from art-making. In fact we know that the most effective way to teach art and design is to provide opportunities to experience, make and do it in the world. We see a mutualism between art and science: art matters to science as easily as science matters to art, and both can have important impacts on policymakers. We also understand that just like our ecologies, all these perspectives are constantly in flux and to truly represent the arid experience, ARID needs to change and transform. In future issues, look for more invited guest editors, possibly section editors that our ejournals platform adapts to easily, and know that we welcome your feedback, proposals and ideas about how ARID can best represent and serve our communities.

Andrea Polli, Managing Editor, ARID Fall 2014

[1] The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2010. Web. 27 May 2014.

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