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A. Laurie Palmer: Sensing Connection to the Time Left

March 24 – April 22, 2018

Curated by Doug Ischar

A fence diagram is a relatively obscure and out of date graphic convention used by geologists to visualize the underground before 3D computer modeling came into common use. A fence diagram combines intersecting two-dimensional cross-sections of the earth’s strata drawn in perspective and positioned at angles to each other to depict a three-dimensional space. Geologists connect the dots where wells or cores have been drilled with the wavy lines of rock strata to create cross-sectional views; these cores or wells are also the points of intersection where the “arms” of the fence, or the cross-sections, meet.

The transparent panels in Iceberg are based on a series of maps of the Illinois Basin prepared by the Illinois Geological Survey and useful primarily for oil geologists looking for oil shale. The sewn strata lines have been compressed and exaggerated in both dimensions in response to the complex and intimate space of Iceberg, but retain their internal spatial relationships while the whole configuration has been shifted 45 degrees counterclockwise (North is West).

The New Albany Shale, one thin layer of rock rich in hydrocarbons, drapes gracefully below the earth’s surface in southern Illinois, spreading out into Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee—gigantic, invisible—underlying and trespassing on political and private property boundaries delineated and policed on the surface.

The New Albany has been protected so far by Illinois’ relatively restrictive regulations on fracking. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources granted the first permit for high-volume hydraulic fracturing in September 2017, but the drilling company (Woolsey Operating Co. LLC) pulled out two months later, citing burdensome regulations and commodity prices, but also following the exposure of dozens of violations in their operations.

To advocate for the shale is to advocate for the amplification of being that comes with feeling a relationship to matter that is continuous with one’s own body—even while radically different from it—and with those many other bodies that are also you.

Walking among, between, and through the transparent panels is by inference inhabiting the underground, moving through solid earth as if it was air, and experiencing the contrasts in spatial and temporal scales of one’s out-sized human body in relation to 15,000 feet of rock—an archive of accumulated and solidified time that is vulnerable now to explosion, poisoning, and extraction.

The time left behind (in the archive of rock strata) and the time remaining (in our shared sense of an end) meet underground in a medium which is surprisingly airy, light, and full of ghosts. I thought that seeing other humans inhabiting the underground together might feel like visiting with those we have lost, but what I didn’t anticipate until the opening were also renewed connections with those who are still present, made possible in intimate rooms created by the arms of the fences.


Artforum (Michelle Grabner)
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