Vaughn Bell

How is the landscape observed, divided and apportioned? What are the extents of our notions of connection and responsibility? How are we affected and how do we affect the places and spaces we inhabit and imagine? I examine our relationship to these places and often find both humor and pathos in the encounter.

My most current projects take several forms. One is an on-going series of performances collectively called “This Land is Your/My Land.” The performances have involved “Pocket Biosphere Adoptions”, “Land for Adoption”, and the “Cultivation Utility Vehicle (CUV)”. The core feature of these performances is an exchange between two people: a piece of land, or a tiny biosphere is given from one person to another under the condition that the adoptor will take care of the land or biosphere. An adoption form is signed by both participants in a ritual that highlights the social and cultural forms that dictate how we relate to our environment.

In this performance, as in recent drawings and sculptures such as “Surrogate Mountains” and “Personal Biospheres” I explore the miniaturization of landscape, the separation of one piece of “land” from the whole, and the relationship of care and control that this embodies. A tiny mountain or a small piece of land is suddenly within the scale of the human body, implying a different relationship than the one of awe, alienation or domination that is present in many encounters with our surroundings.

The work is informed by an ever-expanding array of ideas and histories. I am as interested in discussions of sustainability, property rights, public space and ecological function as I am in a range of contemporary art practices. Investigations into local sites, art histories and cultures become the groundwork for site-based work, whether it is performances in public space or installation works. In some cases, a conceptual exploration takes form in drawings, objects and actions, and then adapts to diverse locations and contexts. I am inspired by moments of absurdity and contradiction as well as my own visceral experiences of place.

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