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Organized by the Mills College Art Museum, photographer Young Suh and poet Katie Peterson create new work in their first collaborative exhibition together. Drawing on a shared interest in landscape developed in different media, their project examines the struggle of humans to survive in a rapidly changing natural world and the shifting concepts of nature that govern that world. In Can We Live Here? Stories From A Difficult World, the artists create works that upend the Romantic tradition of the sublime landscape and respond to the Romantic tradition of populist, narrative storytelling. These works bring into focus how daily life itself is charged with a sense of environmental disaster, and elevating the stakes of ordinary experience beyond the ordinary to the mythic. Two screening rooms will feature new videos that explore in narrative and abstract form how civilization’s failures follow us into natural experience,
especially during a time of environmental crisis. The exhibition also showcases a new series of photographs, both as large-scale prints and in intimate book form, that depict human activity within the beautiful and remote landscapes of the California desert and Alaska. References to Emily Dickinson appear through multiple recreations of her small writing desk, inviting visitors to engage directly with the artists’ books, which combine photography and resonant, concise text to create a contemplative space. A donkey appears as a disruptive protagonist throughout the work, surfacing in the video and materializing as a performance figure. With this exhibition, Suh and Peterson present a poetic series of works that subtly disrupt assumptions about both the depiction and perception of being in nature.

Installation_12 encounters

12 handbound books.

12 cherrywood desks are custom made to the size of Emily Dickinson's writing desk.

12 plaster casts of an Airsoft replica handgun are placed in the hollow drawer space.

12 tables and chairs are arranged in the middle of a large gallery facing a wall.

Visitors sit and read books. They may place a hand underneath and touch the gun without taking it out.

Emily Dickinson's poem, My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun is secretly placed in the gallery.

Between 2011 and 2015 my partner and I live part of our lives in harsh environments. We visit Alaska in the winter. We find home in California desert in the summer.

I photograph.

Katie writes. And we put them together in books.

Every name of places that appears in Emily Dickinson's poems are collected in COMPLETE ATLAS. 

A Day in a Life 2013
11min 4sec

Can We Live Here?  2015
9min 55sec

Birthday  2015
9min 35sec
Careless Love  2015
4 min 30 sec
Souvenir  2015
10min 23sec

Earthly Conversations and Slow Moving Things 2015
30min 27sec

Performance_Interruption by donkeys