The Subtle Land (2008) is for 3 radios, AM transmitter, and 4-channel audio. It was made with the generous support from Fossil Fools, Berea College, Kentucky, and a National Performance Network Creation Fund grant. It was first shown at the Berea College Appalachian Center Gallery, as part of the Fossil Fools residency, “Art, Activism, and Appalachia” (April, 2008). Total time: 60 minutes, continuous loop.
The Subtle Land is a multi-channel sound installation that is both a showcase of the many diverse recordings located at the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives and a reflection on the agricultural landscape of Ohio and Kentucky. It borrows from integrated farming systems and applies the agrarian principals of adaptability, variety, respect, and local economy to sound. The agrarian essays of Wendell Berry are a primary influence on this work.
The archival recordings come from many sources, including ballads, radio programs, field recordings, instrumentals, news, and farm reports. The radios and speakers each have shared and separate material, creating a balance between independence and interdependence. Inspired by old farm radios, the three used here are from the 1940s-50s, and are part of my father’s personal collection (he also kindly assembled the AM transmitter for this project).
One final thought: With the rapid depletion of small farms in the United States and my home state of Ohio, it occurred to me that these radical changes are happening “quietly”––without the average person’s conscious awareness––and that the profound, subtle benefits of the land are often appreciated only after they are gone.