Territorial Imperative
Sarah Ballard, Heat Spells, 2023, 16mm on HD video, 9 min.

Territorial Imperative

Deluge Contemporary Art, Victoria, BC - Nov 1 - 25

by Michael Turner

In his book The Territorial Imperative (1966), Robert Ardrey argues that the human instinct toward territory is evolutionarily determined and has manifested more recently in private property and nation building. Although popular, the book was controversial for challenging the widely held belief that human behaviour is distinct from animal behaviour. In this exhibition of seven artists, interspecies communication, ecology, colonialism and commodified landscapes are explored in analog motion picture film. See short films by Sarah Ballard, Big Top Collective (Trace Nelson and Peter Sandmark), Yusuf Demirors, Kimberly Forero-Arnías, Janelle VanderKelen and Sebastian Wiedemann.

For those interested in the conflation of history (the explorer Ponce de Leon) and myth (the Fountain of Youth), Ballard’s Heat Spells (2023, USA, 9 min.) focuses on tourism’s re-inscribing role as colonizer through the sightseer’s eternal search for the perfect photograph.

Turkish-born Demirors’ Suya Dokun [Touch the Water] (2023, USA, 8 min.) centres on a lost and amnesiac narrator moving through the strange and miserably polluted waterways of New York City, asking questions of where he is and what it means to be human.

Though recortes (2023, Colombia/USA, 10 min.) draws on filmmaker Forero-Arnías’ family experiences on a Colombian coffee farm and her current life in Boston, it is the scientific field notebook that enables observation “of categories and compartmentalization that sustains dislocation and places pressure on the nature of ‘belonging.’ ” VanderKelen’s Language Unknown (2022, USA/Spain, 6 min.) imagines how plants in all forms and conditions might engage in interspecies communication with their more sensorially limited human counterparts. In a similar turn, Wiedemann’s Oculto [Hidden] (2023, Colombia/Peru, 9 min.) chooses celestial bodies as his non-human foils. In his own words, “The moon turns red, the planet cries, the fall is deeper than we could imagine.”


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