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The Pine Barrens Project

Saturday, February 12, 2022

"The Pine Barrens Project, Ecologies of Place: Experimental Film & Video"
'The Pine Barrens Project, Ecologies of Place: Experimental Film & Video'

3–5 p.m. Film installations and Academy Pine Barrens specimens on display

5–7 p.m. David Scott Kessler’s film “The Pine Barrens” with live score by The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra

7–9 p.m. Film installations again available for viewing

The 1.1 million-acre New Jersey Pine Barrens represents the largest open space on the Eastern seaboard between Boston and Richmond and roughly 22% of the nation's most densely populated state. Under the sandy soil lie 17 trillion gallons of pristine water in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, supplying 2 million people with drinking water.

Despite countless threats and continued abuses, this unlikely land of fire, folklore and endangered species has persisted. The endurance of the Pine Barrens is attributed to the relationship between people and the natural world, which remains strong in this region through agriculture, storytelling, recreation and advocacy.

Influenced by this distinct ecology and history, The Pine Barrens Project explores humans’ cultural and creative relationship with the natural world, one that we will need to continue fostering to maintain a healthy and habitable planet.

Ecologies of Place: Experimental Film and Installation

Started in 2012 by David Scott Kessler, The Pine Barrens Project assembled experimental ecological works by contemporary artists and musicians around Kessler's perpetually evolving feature-length documentary “The Pine Barrens,” accompanied by a live score by The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra. These works were presented in museums, galleries, and most often in the forests, fields and bogs of the Pine Barrens in events entitled Middle of Nowhere.

This iteration of The Pine Barrens Project focuses on film and video works that illustrate particular relationships of people and artists to the natural world, including the tension in our growing uncertainty about the future of those relationships. Modeled on those artists who took their experiments in the Pine Barrens back to what we call "civilization," the works in this show are juxtaposed by the Academy of Natural Science's taxidermy dioramas from the 1930s–50s and presented alongside the Academy's own Pine Barrens specimens.

Works featured:

“Pine Barrens” by Nancy Holt
“Field Resistance” by Emily Drummer
“Ghost Forest” by Michael Fodera and Maya Lin, produced by Madison Square Park Conservancy
“a landscape to be invented” by Josh Weissbach
“Ten Fires” by David Scott Kessler and The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra
“Field Companion” by Matt Suib and Nadia Hironaka

$35 - Space Is Limited

Masks and Proof of Vaccination Required

Watch the trailer:

The Pine Barrens - Trailer from David Scott Kessler on Vimeo.

Virtual Screening

Watch David Scott Kessler’s film “The Pine Barrens” from home at your leisure the weekend of February 12, 2022

Purchase tickets now.

Tickets to the virtual screening include access to an exclusive virtual Q&A with director David Scott Kessler on Tuesday, February 15 from 7–8 p.m. (EST).

Experimental Films and Installations

A film still from the film 'a landscape to be invented'

“a landscape to be invented” (2020, 12:07 min, 35mm film, 16mm film, Super 8 film and digital video on digital video) 

Josh Weissbach

Other than the ocean, the rest of the planet was bathed in purple, which was due to the color of the vegetation. The change in the sun's radiation had probably caused the plants to evolve as they adapted to the new light.

“‘a landscape to be invented’ is a deviation from the majority of my cinematic practice. While it continues to employ landscape imagery, which is a constant throughout my work, it considers the traumatic impacts of global warming on natural spaces within a climate fiction framing.” — Josh Weissbach

A film still from the film 'Field Resistance'

“Field Resistance” (2019, 15:45 min) 

Emily Drummer

Charging scenes of the present with dystopian speculation, “Field Resistance” teases the boundaries between documentary and science fiction to investigate overlooked environmental devastation in the flyover state of Iowa. Observational, documentary-style footage collected from disparate locations – a university herbarium, karst sinkholes inhabited by primordial flora and fauna and a telecommunication tower job site, among others – is used to evoke a fictional, dystopian narrative of plant ascension and humanity’s retreat. Rejecting the human individual as the focus of narrative cinema, the film adopts the perspective of a symbiotic “implosive whole” in which humans and nonhumans are related in an overlapping, non-total way.

A film still from the film 'Pine Barrens'

“Pine Barrens” (1975, 30:24 min, color, sound, 16 mm film on HD video) 

Nancy Holt

“‘Pine Barrens’ is concerned with evoking through film a barren wilderness in south-central New Jersey. The camera is always in motion — tracking, pivoting and walking through the landscape. Though they are never seen in the film, the voices of the local people, the 'Pineys,' are heard relating their feelings about the land, their attitudes about city life, their myths of the area, etc. Their voices and the music of Bill Patton's Pine Barrens Trio add a psychological dimension to the landscape." — Nancy Holt

Music: Bill Patton's Pine Barrens Trio (Green Bank Inn, Green Bank, N.J.). Voices: Leroy Applegate, Emily Brown, Howard Brown, Kathryn Buzby, Jack Cerruto, Clayton Ford, Maurice Ford, Bill Haines, Richard Henecker, Rodney Koster, Dudley Lewis, Jesse Lewis, Elaine Schuck, Bill Web. Editorial Assistance: Dee Dee Halleck. Special Assistance: Joshua Cohn. A Film by Nancy Holt. Copyright © 1975.

Courtesy of The Holt/Smithson Foundation

Stills from “Ten Fires”, A film by David Scott Kessler

“Ten Fires” (2014–2022, 19 min, 2-channel installation, HD video, Sound) 

David Scott Kessler With The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra

Fire in the New Jersey Pinelands is an essential component in the natural ecology, destroying non-native plants and promoting new growth. Similarly, fire helps to sustain the character and lore of the Pine Barrens as an epicenter for storytelling.

With over 100 locals participating, “Ten Fires” combines fragments of folklore and stories told around campfires in the New Jersey Pine Barrens over four years. It was filmed initially during the making of “The Pine Barrens” and merged with an improvisational session of musicians of The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra, also filmed playing over a Pine Barrens fire. This installation further abstracts the footage into a tonal and impressionistic study of the transfigurative nature of storytelling and fire.

A film by David Scott Kessler, music by Ben Warfield, Jesse Sparhawk, Gretchen Lohse, Laura Baird, John Pettit Copyright © 2022

A film still from the film “Field Companion”

“Field Companion” (Chapter Seven: You're Not Alone) (2021) 

Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib

Set in a microcosmic forest modeled loosely on the Pine Barrens that dot Southern New Jersey, “Field Companion” considers forest ecosystems in terms of symbiotic and collaborative relationships that sustain coexistence and community.

In “Field Companion,” the forest has been condensed and transplanted to a terrarium in the artists' studio. Twelve cubic feet of pines, shrubs, ferns, moss, fungus and carnivorous plants are reflected infinitely in the terrarium's mirrored walls and captured with a motion-controlled camera and specialized macro lens that dramatically shift the scale and perspective of this miniature landscape.

Bringing attention to questions surrounding social responsibility and community, Hironaka and Suib transform their microcosmic film set into the home of chimeric forest dwellers who consider themes of precarity, mutualism and collaborative survival.

A film still from the film 'Ghost Forest'

“Ghost Forest” (2021) 

Maya Lin

Maya Lin’s “Ghost Forest,” a towering stand of 49 haunting Atlantic white cedar trees, is a newly commissioned public artwork. Lin brings her vision as an artist and her agency as an environmental activist to this project, a memory of germination, vegetation and abundance and a harsh symbol of the devastation of climate change. The height of each tree, around 40 feet, overwhelms human scale and stands as a metaphor of the outsized impact of a looming environmental calamity.

In nature, a ghost forest is the evidence of a dead woodland that was once vibrant. Atlantic white cedar populations on the East Coast are endangered by past logging practices and threats from climate change, including extreme weather events that yield saltwater intrusion, wind events and fire. The trees in “Ghost Forest” were all slated to be cleared as part of regeneration efforts in the fragile ecosystem of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

49 Atlantic white cedar trees. Collection the artist, courtesy Pace Gallery. © Maya Lin. Film Directed & Produced by Michael Fodera/Madison Square Park Conservancy. The exhibition was organized by Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York, and was on view from May 10 through November 14, 2021.