Repeating Traces

Curated by Lalita Salander

April, 6-April14, 2016

Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street Brooklyn, NY 11231


Artist: Rachel Garrard


The nine day performance Repeating Traces is a collaboration between artist Rachel Garrard and curator Lalita Salander, and was conceived during a period of research and a residency in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Particular inspiration is drawn from the Kogi, an Amerindian people of the region, who, through their traditional offerings and “payments” to the earth, consider it their role to help maintain the equilibrium of nature. By way of weaving through the topographical sites of the Sierra, Repeating Traces becomes a method by which Garrard attempts to highlight a personal intimacy with the cycles of nature. 

The Kogi refer to the region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as the heart of the world. The terrain of the Sierra encompasses a microcosm of the earth’s climates with deserts, beaches, mountains, tropic sun, and arctic snow. As in all Kogi philosophy, the attributes of the Sierra’s topographical features are imbued with a storehouse of detailed codes and multi-layered meanings. Just as the Sierra can be seen as a microcosm of the earth, it’s symbolism extends to represent at once the human body, the loom and the specific angles and directions of the trails and channels that crisscross the earth’s surface, which are thought to be similar, if not identical, to the layered structure of the cosmos. 

The loom is central to Kogi cosmology, and it is mapped onto the Sierra by the four main cities around the base of the mountain massif: Santa Marta in the northwest, Riohacha in the northeast, Fundación in the southwest, and Valledupar in the southeast, with the snowcapped mountains that rise nearly 6,000 meters above sea level at the cross in the center of the loom. A network of important ceremonial centers have precise locations within the framework of the loom, each center being interconnected to the others; the grid of the loom serves to trace these relationships and points to an awareness of a complex system of balance. Just as the loom can be understood on many different levels – anatomical, sexual, topographical, architectural, astronomical – so can the act of weaving. To the Kogi, weaving is a moral activity. By weaving a piece of cloth a man[1] is essentially “Weaving his life.”[2] He is symbolically organizing his feelings: the threads are like thoughts being interlaced into the web that is society. As anthropologist Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff put it, “A competent weaver is a good man, and a good piece of cloth is an achievement, something to be proud of; it is a well-lived life”[3].

During Garrard and Salander’s residency in Colombia, they traveled vertically and horizontally through the peaks and valleys of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Accompanied by three Kogi friends and a Kogi-speaking anthropologist, they traversed the paths and planes of the sacred land that is now protected Kogi territory. Kogi families maintain different huts at various altitudes: traveling frequently between each home, they weave their way through the mountain landscape, which is thought of as a loom. Their wanderings also reflect the pathway of the sun, which traverses the earth day and night as it weaving the fabric of life, echoing the natural rhythm of creation and renewal. 

Starting by plotting out a self-devised map of sacred sites and spaces within the symbolic context of the Sierra Nevada, the artist will begin a journey connecting each site with golden thread. According to a series of internal prompts, she will weave her way through the map as a continuous repetition until an intricate web has been formed. At this point, without pause, the artist will continue to unravel the piece, returning the space to its original form. The Kogi describe the connections between all living things as represented by invisible golden threads; Garrard uses gold thread to symbolically honor this interconnection while she creates and destroys this site-specific ephemeral installation.

Rachel Garrard was born in 1984 in Devon, England, and currently lives and works in New York. While completing her graduate studies at Central Saint Martins in 2009, she gained recognition for performance-based refracted-video works such as Circuition (2009), and Seven Transmutations (2010). Garrard was awarded artist residencies at the Atacama Telescope Farm in Chile (2011), and the Center for the Holographic Arts at Ohio State University (2012). Her recent work, which has grown to encompass video, performance, drawing, sculpture, painting and printmaking, has been exhibited nationally in curated group exhibitions at venues such as Participant Inc., New York, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, New York, Jack Hanley Gallery, New York, Shoshona Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles, the National Academy Museum, New York and Tanja Grunert Gallery, New York. Garrard’s work has also been exhibited internationally at the Lille Métropole Musée d’Art Moderne, France, Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, Yota Space Digital Arts Festival, St Petersburg, AmbikaP3, London, Shizaru Gallery, London and Apartment Gallery, Berlin. She has been the subject of solo exhibitions in both New York and Miami.

Lalita Salander is a New York based independent curator. She has previously worked with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, with a selection of galleries in the U.S. and Europe, and with Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Her projects have been exhibited in New York at CP Projects Space, Spring Break Art Fair, Point B and in collaboration with No Longer Empty. 

Special thanks to Pioneer Works, The School of Visual Arts Master’s Program in Curatorial Practice, Casa Indigena Santa Marta, Lucas Dreier, Manuldzi, Miguel, Ana Velasco, Cristal Ange, Manuela Reyes and Layla Neal.

Repeating Traces is presented as part of a festival of final projects curated by the inaugural class of SVA MA Curatorial Practice.

Image credit: Topographic map, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, 1957. Courtesy of Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi.

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