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March 3rd, 2015

SITE Guide Reflection: John McKissick on Unsettled Landscapes

My opinions changed during the course of Unsettled Landscapes. Some work I lost enthusiasm for after spending time with it. With others, I gradually became absorbed, and some convinced and repelled me in turn. Exposure made the difference. This happened not only in the cellphone-banned empty-gallery art-gazing that makes being a SITE Guide uniquely rewarding. It also happened while leading tours and welcoming the public among this work. Having once heard another guide mention taking tours between the two trees in gallery one, my high estimation of Johanna Calle’s rustling, typewritten ceiba as a shadow of Miler’s with a monumentality of its own, drew me to its point of shade in the immense gallery. I became entranced by the rushing waters, treeless moraines, and shaking palms of the Video Trans-Americas. I went back and forth over Miss Chief’s simplifications, but the visual compellingness of the mock-diorama pressed those issues again and again. Minerva Cuevas’ detourned antique also risked becoming a one-liner. Despite my initial aversion to its high aestheticized manner, I ended up finding its vividness and finish irresistible. On the strength of a few eerie rubber-stamped wordings, I hoped to come to enjoy DJM’s installation; I never did, and after leading classes through gallery two and discussing with them the connection between the two Cape Dorset works, the power of Ohotaq Mikkigak’s colored-pencil landscape was made newly apparent. Finally, the Astronomer series itself altered my original perception of it as contrived and unwieldy into one of lasting admiration. These surprises, reversals, and inconsistencies enlivened my experience of Unsettled Landscapes.