Durn That Road
Sunday 20th January to 17th February 2019
Annabel Howland’s artworks weave speculative webs around ecology, finance and art. Looking through the lenses of different fields of research, she unpicks, isolates and reweaves threads from these systems. The resulting installations constantly shift between scales and perspectives in attempts to fathom and imagine the systems’ complex twists.
The title, Durn That Road, quotes the character Anse Bundren in William Faulkner’s 1930 novel As I Lay Dying. Anse is introduced to us through his rant against a road he finds threatening, mainly because it brings people (i.e. the taxman) to his door, but also because of its implicit demand for movement. “When He aims for something to be always a moving, He makes it longways, like a road or a horse or a wagon, but when He aims for something to stay put, He makes it up and down ways, like a tree or a man.”
For her exhibition at Bradwolff Projects, Annabel has developed a multimedia installation, which takes as its starting point a road through the rainforest in the state of Sarawak, Borneo (East Malaysia). This road, which was first laid by logging companies, starts on the coast and was extended through to villages near the border with Indonesia in around 2010. One of the minority languages spoken in this region is Sa’ban. The building of this stretch of the road happened to coincide with the publication of a trilingual Malay-Sa’ban-English picture dictionary written by Dr Beatrice Clayre, who lived in the area in the 1960s. In 2016, Annabel travelled the length of the road with Alasdair Clayre and two Sa’ban friends, filming and interviewing people about the affect of a new road on the people living along it and how a minority language fairs under the changes a road brings. A line drawn by the road through the rainforest links communities, which used to be separated by many days travel on foot, or by boat. But it also links in to other lines that criss-cross the globe, following long flows of financial capital, raw materials, and religion.
The installation is structured around strong verticals and horizontals, intermittently penetrated by single point perspective.
An essay by Alena Alexandrova, based on her lecture about Annabel’s work and this exhibition in particular, will be published here soon.