A decade of turmoil

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  September 7, 2011

CATHERINE D'IGNAZIO
THE LANDSCAPE OF FEAR

Artist Catherine D'Ignazio, also known as kanarinka, lives in Boston and teaches at RISD. Her work focuses on the shift in our language and physical landscape in the wake of 9/11.

We are constantly told, she says, to keep an eye out for stray packages and stray people. "See something, say something," read the signs on our public transit systems.

"We are being invited, in public spaces, to be suspicious of everybody else," she says.

"IT TAKES 154,000 BREATHS TO EVACUATE BOSTON"

Over the course of two months, D'Ignazio ran Boston's entire evacuation route system. "It was my attempt," she says, "to artistically measure fear in the landscape."

D'Ignazio went on 26 jogs in total, recording her breaths and counting them with a software program. She then created a "sculptural and audio archive," outfitting 26 separate jars with speakers playing her breaths from each run.

D'Ignazio says the Boston evacuation routes, marked by a series of small, blue signs, are widely considered ineffectual. "There's this way, for me," she says, "it became more poetic. It's more designed to tell us that . . . we are vulnerable."

"EXIT STRATEGY"

When the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston invited D'Ignazio to transform "It Takes 154,000 Breaths" into a gallery exhibit, she developed "Exit Strategy" — a video of the artist attempting, repeatedly, to exit the museum, but never actually leaving the building.

The allusion to Afghanistan and Iraq was explicit.

"THE BORDER CROSSED US"

The University Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned D'Ignazio's art collective, the Institute for Infinitely Small Things, to create a temporary installation on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in April.

"The Border Crossed Us" replicated a piece of fencing that was erected on the US-Mexico border in 2008, splitting the Tohono O'odham Indians' land in two.

"Similar to the evacuation route, there's been study after study [showing] that the fences actually don't do much other than function as symbols in the landscape — symbols of us trying to keep people out," she says. "But they do have very real, material impact on the lives of the people who live in border communities."

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