Burn All Bridges

Burn All Bridges

Opening: Friday February 1st,  6-9 PM
Exhibition open and hours: February 2nd & 3d, from 12-4 PM

Alta Art Space is pleased to present Burn All Bridges, a group exhibition showcasing works by Alice Lang, Matthew Hotaling, Anna Tanner, Martin Dahlqvist, Brook Hsu, Johanna Arvidsson and Isabel Theselius. 

When a wildfire burns out of control the use of fire can be employed to combat the spread of the flames. These controlled burns create a fire block and reduce the amount of fuel that wildfire can access. In a political and cultural climate that defies logic, how do you fight the current condition? With controlled madness? What would a political strategy look like which uses the unthinkable, illogical, or insanity as a response to conditions that seem to defy previous political logic and cultural conditions. How do we fight the current fire that threatens to destroy established rights and feeds off fear and the extreme?

If fire is recognized as an integral part of the environmental cycle, we should add the image of the woman which has been historically equated with nature. She tends to the flames like the Greek goddess Hestia. In some cultures, this revered connection to nature elevated the status of women. In our patriarchal society, the female comparison to nature has been used with negative connotations to illustrate women as primitive and irrational who need the order established by men to survive. Western society privileges the so called rational and scientific male gaze that came to control the conditions of women within the logic and development of modern scientific method. Men were at the top of the natural worlds hierarchy confirmed by his dominance and conquering of the natural world. This concept reaches back through Western history and along with it the invention of hysteria, which was associated with women and named after the Greek, hystera, for uterus. The myth prevailed as “doctors have tended to favor arguments from biology that link hysteria with femaleness: “Women are prone to hysteria because of something fundamental in their nature, something innate, fixed or given that obviously requires interaction with environmental forces to become manifest but is still a primary and irremediable fate for the human female.”

But as Elaine Showalter pushes, we should be “…redefining hysteria as a universal human response to emotional conflict [rather] than evading, denying, or projecting its realities.” Because of the stigma attached to hysteria as a female condition and the elusiveness of the condition it was used in wide-ranging diagnoses for manifestations of illnesses that were unable to be identified. The causes of hysteria were innate to women and arose mysteriously rather than considering it a symptom of social conditions. Unable to verbalize the causes of illness, as Showalter continues, “the silent or nonverbal “body language” of hysteria can be seen as a Mother Tongue that contests the patriarchal culture.” The inherent language of the oppressed cannot be explicitly expressed. Rather than stigmatizing the “hysteric” a term that has fallen out of popular medical terminology and transformed into anxiety neuroses, obsessional disorders, manic depression or borderline personality disorders, we should be celebrating those who are resisting oppression by any means that they can.

Is there a way to harness hysteria rather than it being a byproduct of subjection? How could the acceptance mental and physical illness, care and empathy be used as an active component of resistance? When women are on the verge of losing major rights that have been gained in the 20th Century is the threat of mass hysteria a possibility? When basic biological principles such as being pregnant become classified as a preexisting health condition and give credence to terminate medical insurance in an exercise of power that a man would never be subjected to, what constitutes a rational response?

The artist whose work is represented in Burn All Bridges tests the limits of rationality through works in a variety of mediums that are both intimate and jolting. They address the illogical body and actions, the hallucinatory and supernatural world, human connection to animals and the natural world. Though no concrete solutions for the current political crisis are found in the artist’s work, visions of alternative worlds emerge to connect to the universal human responses to emotional conflict as Showalter explained hysteria had done previously.

Text: Nathaniel Cummings-Lambert