Culture Report: Art and the Anthropocene Along the Border
A new exhibition at the South Bay’s free Bonita Museum and Cultural Center uses sculpture, photography, visual art, film and more to spotlight the changes to the natural landscape brought on by development, climate change and other human touches to ecosystems both local and global, but particularly in the San Diego-Tijuana border region.
In recent years, scientists proposed “Anthropocene” as the name for a new epoch (a significant measure of time in the planet’s geological timeline) for the time after the Holocene, chronicling human impact. And the Bonita museum’s new exhibition, “Anthropocene,” uses the work of 19 artists to try to understand the ways the planet has been irrevocably changed.
“We’ve definitely broken our planet,” artist Diana Benavidez said. “It’s never going to be the same.” Benavidez’ work uses piñata as medium.
On a traditional five-point star piñata, Benavidez projects various images and video footage featuring maps, landscapes and the ways in which humanity has made its mark. “I have this image of several trucks driving to a beach and pouring sand into the beach,” she said. (Many San Diego beaches import sand.)
By striving for relatability (such as including recognizable imagery like Google Maps pictures), Benavidez said that the work is more accessible. “I didn’t want to focus on the end of the world,” she said.
Benavidez is a native San Diegan but was raised in both Tijuana and Chula Vista, and the border is an integral part of her life. She notes the differences between the natural landscapes on either side, and points out that there are very few untouched green spaces in Tijuana so those she does find — such as the estuary — she values.
Curator Wendy Wilson, the museum’s director, also spoke of the border’s particular significance in a changing world. “To me the border has always been a magical place,” Wilson said. “It is the edge of something exciting and a confluence of amazing diversity.”
“I feel inundated by the overwhelming ability of humans to affect the planet,” said Wilson. She wanted to find out how artists and scientists in San Diego were understanding and processing the human impact on geology and natural landscapes.
Also, the concept of a dwelling — and its infrastructure — forms one of the more significant ripple effects humanity has had on the geography and landscape. Wilson is fascinated by issues like affordable housing, and points to Stephanie Bedwell’s piece in the exhibition, “Bower,” which portrays “emotional structures,” and the fragility and emotional interface of people on the border seeking shelter.
Wilson has been with the Bonita museum for a year and a half, and has spent this time getting to know the art and culture community of the South Bay, as well as continuing work in the intersection of art and science.
“Every art and science exhibition I’ve been a part of has a completely different feel depending on what technology is being explored and what data is being examined,” Wilson said, and that trends and stories told by artists give us a glimpse into our future.
This summer, the Bonita Museum and Cultural Center showcased “Nuestra Frontera,” an exhibition chronicling the past 250 years in the area — a borderless region consisting of Kumeyaay open space, Alta California Span and Alta California Mexico.
“The ‘Anthropocene’ exhibition is another way to talk about our region in the present in a highly personal way,” said Wilson.
In addition to Benavidez, the exhibition also features the work of 19 artists, including Matthew Hebert, Sasha Koozel Reibstein, Eva Struble, the late May Y. Cheung Hoffman and more, including works in several languages.
“Anthropocene” opens Friday and runs through Sept. 28. An opening reception on Friday evening will feature a poetry reading by Garda Govine.
Toy Pianos, Free Trolley Dances and More Arts and Culture News and Events
- Haitian-born, Bronx-based artist Fabiola Jean Louis is the new resident at Lux Art Institute, and her work, “Rewriting History: A Black Ancestral Narrative,” aims to defiantly shirk expectations about the black female body. Louis’ studio residency begins in conjunction with her exhibition, which begins Friday evening and runs through early November.
- “You Could Have Gone to Heaven” is a joint showcase from Marina Grize and Lissa Corona (Corona + Grize Projects), opening Friday from 6-9 at Swish Projects, the revisioned gallery space in North Park’s Gym Standard shoe store.
- “Meta-Affection” is an exhibition that explores the interaction between humans and technology, featuring work by San Diego, Tijuana and Mexico City artists such as Margaret Noble, Gustavo Mayoral, Anni Garza Lau and more. It opens on Saturday at Front Arte Cultura and runs through late October.
- Best Practice opens “A Kind of Saturnalia,” which features new work by San Diego-based artist J Noland, with an opening reception on Saturday.
- Scott Paulson will hold his 19th annual Toy Piano Festival in conjunction with the UCSD Library with two performances. One is at noon on Thursday in the Geisel Library on campus (note: classes aren’t back in session yet on campus so parking won’t suck as much), and another is on Sept. 15 at the downtown library.
- The legendary San Diego band Black Heart Procession hasn’t played a local show together in a while, but with pianist/keyboardist Tobias Nathanial back in town, they’ll descend upon The Casbah on Sunday for a special show.
Theater and Dance
- On Friday, San Diego Dance Theater will perform a free preview of two of this year’s Trolley Dances pieces at Liberty Station’s First Friday. The night also includes preview performances of La Jolla Playhouse’s upcoming Without Walls Festival.
- Applications for the airport Performing Arts Residency are due on Monday.
Film and Books
- Writers for Migrant Justice is a nationwide event happening Wednesday to raise funds and awareness for immigrant rights. In San Diego, it’s at Verbatim Books and features lots of San Diego poets and writers (including me).
- The Commission for Arts and Culture is looking for a poet laureate! Applications are due Oct. 1. The two-year post includes a $20,000 budget.
- There’s a free outdoor screening of “Black Panther” on Saturday at the Jacobs’ Market Creek Plaza Amphitheater, beginning with a performance by The Lyrical Groove.
- “Reservoir Dogs” holds the esteemed midnight movie spot this Saturday at the Ken (and also the less-esteemed Sunday 11 a.m. spot).
Miscellany and More
- The local chapter of woodworkers has noticed an uptick in membership among young people and women. The society’s fall seminar runs this weekend. (U-T)
- You Belong Here’s monthly Drag Queen Story Hour performance is for children of all ages and is dedicated to opening minds, this Sunday morning.
- A tile artist dishes about recreating 40,700 Batchelder-style historic tiles for the Mission Beach Plunge renovation. (SOHO eNews)
- The Acid Vault is a new performing arts space in the storage vault beneath Amplified Ale Works. Quite underground! Featuring monthly drag performances, comedy and more. (Reader)
- Curated by Kara West, the crowd-sourced “Finding Space” exhibition closes at You Belong Here with a closing reception on Friday from 6-9. It features work from Laurie Nasica, Ricardo Ales, Fifi Martinez, CATAPHANT and more.
- “I’m not important, but what I need to tell is.” The animated documentary “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles,” a true story of the filmmaker’s artistic struggles and shocking work, closes at Digital Gym on Thursday.
- Farm to Fork Week kicks off on Sunday with a special party and tasting involving sustainably minded restaurants and wineries.
- There’s just one official Mezcal Week venue in San Diego but it’s a good one (Tahona). Either way, you should probably drink some mezcal next week if that’s your jam.
- Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bank is closing today for good after four years in the Oceanside location.
- In other closure news, the Chula Vista location of Anthem Vegan and The Brew Bar, which shared space, have parted ways and Anthem will no longer be serving food there.
- The chocolate in some cannabis edibles may interfere with potency testing and lead to inaccurate (and sometimes higher) results. (Leafy)
What’s Inspiring Me Right Now
- Behold, Pinterest’s “new new year” report. The pictorial inspo sharing platform sees resolution-based searches spike twice a year: at the actual New Year, and then again at the end of summer. And right now, searches for “inspirational poetry quotes” are up 650%. “Korean banana milk” is also up so here’s a free idea for fame/glory: Write inspirational poetry about banana milk.
- The Amazon 1-star reviews of “Goodnight Moon” are very good. Freemasonry! (Lit Hub)
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