The exhibition ‘Off Road’ for the first time brought together all the elements of my practice in a single comprehensive installation of video, photography and sculpture.
The project was developed near Grover Beach, a state vehicular recreation area in California and a landscape of Sahara-like sand dunes frequently covered in a heavy fog. It’s south side borders on a nature reserve. On a weekday the location is fairly empty and then, on a weekend, thousands of people arrive with their trailers, SUVs, self-built cars, quads and bikes.
'Off Road' is part of a trilogy of works about what I would call controlled 'pockets of freedom' in the United States; places where people go to leave the constraints of everyday existence behind to live out a fantasy of autonomy and freedom. A fantasy that is also instrumental in sustaining the political system that houses it.
This location is full of inherent contradictions; on the one hand it plays a significant role in creating a sense of community. Through something as simple as a shared interest it cuts through class and cultural boundaries. Juxtaposed to this social role is the problematic issue of the contested ecological impact of the activity, a fundamental tension that results in a constant threat of closure. Below the surface of the event rests the underlying paradox between the amount of energy and resources invested and this seemingly futile activity.
The location seems to encapsulate the remainder of a pioneer spirit; a sense of entitlement and claim to land that has defined and shaped this region of the world. Except now there is no more new land left to claim. Here we are already at the very edge of the Pacific Ocean.
The project consists of a set of elements that employ different visual languages: The central piece is a projection which at first seems to present a city that had been transplanted to the coast following a natural disaster. It is only gradually that the place reveals itself for what it is. The project is firmly rooted in my photographic practice; rather than staging scenes the camera is placed in strategic positions waiting for the action to unravel, creating an improvised choreography where intentionality is achieved through the edit. The camera movement has a similarly disembodied feel as images from a large format camera.
The second element consists of a slide show of photographs accompanied by a series of interviews of people who frequent the location, exposing the underlying political implications of the activity, the site and its use.
The third piece, a military tent pretending to be a sand dune, sits at the start of the exhibition. It is a play on devices and language, which generously offers its sensual contours to the hands of the on-lookers.