Exhibition at Gallery 400, University of Illinois, Chicago.
April 20 - June 10, 2017.


Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross: A Great Green Desert , 2017
Four-channel video, 10:30 min.
Three single-channel videos, 20:04 min., 13:35 min., and 15:37 min.

Examining two massive terraforming projects in the Americas, the U.S. Corn Belt and Brazil’s “Soy Frontier,” A Great Green Desert proposes that desertification is transforming what was once “a great green sea,” to use the language of 20th century novelist, environmentalist, and Midwesterner John Herbert Quick. Utilizing video, archival research, documentary, photography, and writing, A Great Green Desert weaves together these elements and interviews with members of the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade; activist Alexandre Conceição, the National Coordinator of the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Party (MST); organic farmer Molly Breslin who operates Breslin Farms in Wallace Township, IL; and scholar Gustavo Oliveira, a UC Berkeley PhD candidate in Geography.

A Great Green Desert: “Nothing can be sold, but such things as can be carried away”, 2016
Offset prints, 17 x 22 in.

A Great Green Desert: The World in Some Parts, 2017
Altered globes, dimensions variable

The artists have adapted these commercially manufactured globes— which ostensibly show an objective map of the world—to illustrate four different geographic aspects of the grain trade: global distribution of grasslands, where most grain/oilseed crops are produced; primary shipping routes between production sites and receiving ports; primary commodity markets/exchanges; and activities of the four largest grain producing companies.

Brian Holmes and Alejandro Meitin: Open Veins of the Americas: Living Rivers/Rios Vivos, 2016–
Website and wall maps, dimensions variable

Living Rivers engages the question: Are we part of a metabolism much larger than our own? This bilingual map-based website investigates the aquatic ecosystems of the Mississippi/Great Lakes and the Paraná-Paraguay (or “Cuenca del Río de la Plata”) watersheds that are inhabited by a multitude of creatures and significantly altered by human activity. This interbasin collaboration expresses the solidarity between the different ecological experiences in North and South America. At the core of Living Rivers is the spirit of “mutua crianza,” a Spanish phrase describing the Aymaran concept of mutual care between humans and nonhumans. Go to the website.

Sarah Lewison: Naxilandia in the 17th, 2008– 
Four-channel video, 70:00 min.

This film examines rural villages along the watershed of the upper Jinsha River (Yangtze) in the Yunnan Province. The villages are home to roughly 300,000 Naxi people, a group that has remained largely autonomous due to the remoteness of the region from the centers of national government. Despite their proximity to Lijiang City, a tourism-driven major urban center in the region, the rural people primarily participate in self-sustaining economies like subsistence farming. Lewison’s multiple videos capture the changing work and environments of the Naxi people in a period of transition, one instigated by a governmental push to develop rural economies and to shift rural labor away from farming.

Sarah Lewison and duskin! drum: Cornstitution: An Anthermation of the Rights of Maize, 2010–
Print on paper, 144 x 61 in.

Produced after a private performance ritual conducted by the artists in a cornfield, the Cornstitution is a humorous manifesto on the rights and responsibilities under which corn lives, grows, and is organized.

Alejandro Meitin Who Designs Territories?, 2015 
Three prints, 39.25 x 47 in. and (two) 26.75 x 20.75 in. 

Analyzing the conception and purposes of territorial division, Who Designs Territories? explores the transformation of land use in South America, particularly as a result of the infrastructure building campaign of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), which connects the economies of South America through transportation, energy, and communication projects.

Who Designs Territories?, 2015 
Video, 4:40 min.

The Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) campaign is a transnational initiative that creates new territories throughout South America based on a new infrastructure network for the continent, including roads, waterways, ports, and energy and communications interconnections to increase exports of commodities such as soybeans and other grains. In response to this campaign, the video shows the equipment used for industrial export systems and questions who designs territories and for whom are they designed.

Claire Pentecost: Pandora’s Basket (laboratory)Pandora’s Basket (pipeline)Pandora’s Basket (field)
All oil and paper on board, 48 x 60 in.

In Pandora’s Basket Pentecost returns to painting with a series based on twenty years of research into food systems and agricultural methods. The paintings address aspects of industrial food production that sustain monocultures and the urgency of shifting to subsistence agriculture.


Major support for The Earth Will Not Abide is provided by the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Consulate General of Argentina in Chicago; the School of Art & Art History, the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. The Daryl Gerber Stokols and Jeff Stokols Voices Series Fund provides general support to Gallery 400.

Gallery 400's exhibition website for the Earth Will Not Abide.


Preceding the exhibition, the program series This Land/That Land: Discussions About Political Ecology and Place hosted artists, ecologists, farmers, and activists that deal with the politics of sustainability, the effects of industrial agriculture, conservation efforts, and land use and land rights to explore both traditional and emerging alternatives to the industrial food system.

October 3, 2016: Alejandro Meitin: Art in a Bioregional Scale.
Artist Alejandro Meitin presented Art in a Bioregional Scale, a lecture that shares the artistic practice of Ala Plástica in Argentina's Río de la Plata Basin and develops a discussion about the nature and effectiveness of combining research and territorial action with artistic methods.

January 31, 2017: Resistance In and Around Nature’s Metropolis
Resistance In and Around Nature’s Metropolis explores methods of land stewardship that can bridge urban and rural divides. This panel discussion will address how food production intersects with environmental and social justice and discuss how facilitating land access for those without can soothe racial and economic disparities around healthy food. Featured guests include Fred Carter, Black Oaks Center; Erika Allen, Growing Power; Ben Helphand, NeighborSpace; and Amy Mall as moderator.

March 8, 2017: Weedeater
A documentary film about Nance Klehm, by Eden Batki, Marty Windahl, and Amy von Harrington.

March 11, 2017: Urbanforage
Led by ecologist Nance Klehm, Urbanforages are two hour informally guided walks through the spontaneous and cultivated vegetation of the urbanscape.

April 22-23, 2017: Homegrown Justice Stand
A micro farmers' market featuring Chicago-based sustainable food companies that strive to support and uplift their communities socially and environmentally, including GrowAsis Urban Garden Consulting, Chicago Honey Co-op, Westside Bee Boyz, and Mindful Indulgences.

May 18, 2017: Waste Not Want Not, a farm-to-fork dinner
Featuring a sound art installation, dinner, and conversation in participation with the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table. Guided by our guest facilitator, Sarah Gabriella Hernandez, we will explore topics of food waste and our collective relationship to agriculture. Nourish your body with a farm-to-fork prepared meal by Chef Abra Berens.

May 23-24, 2017: This Land/That Land Symposium: The Politics of Land Sovereignty and Environmental Racism
As multiple communities work to fight corporate and state environmental violence we contemplate the role of art, shared experience and how to build coalition. The symposium featured a conversation between Kade Twist of Postcommodity and author Heid Erdrich; lecture on The Art of Indigenous Resistance exhibition by activists Charlie Thayer and Kim Smith of Honor the Earth; a panel discussion on environmental racism featuring Olga Bautista, Petcoke activist, Bryant Williams, President of BK Environmental Industries, and Juliana Pino, Policy Director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. Teach-ins by Dr. Kyle Mays and Kelly Hayes offered us ways to understand indigenous cultural expressions as a tool for social and environmental justice and explored ways to combat state violence through direct action organizing. A keynote lecture was delivered by artist Torkwase Dyson.

May 31, 2017: Forms and Features
Led by Poetry Foundation Library Coordinator Maggie Queeney, participants read and discussed a wide range of ecopoems, a species of nature poetry that explores the interactions and intersections between culture, social justice, and the environment. After engaging with the exhibition, participants composed original ecopoems.

Installation Documentation (all images courtesy of Gallery 400)

  • Spring-Summer 2017 exhibition at Gallery 400