Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type





Sam j. Van Aken


Performance, Photography, Sculpture, Studio Art


Artist Statement

Places of abandonment—alleyways, vacant houses, derelict properties-are my sites of reckoning and liberation. These forgotten places, like that of the strip of wooded dumping ground from my childhood, are the platform for rethinking and reimaging the world. Free from purpose, laws, rules, and constraints, they are the sites where new mythologies and cosmologies are conjured and ghosts are summoned.

Forlorn by capitalism, these rust belt settings and we who inhabit them have gained nothing from the centuries of industrialization and colonized norms. In the uncertainty of this destitution and the hell of this contemporary existence, I listen to ghosts or specters as my work reimagines these landscapes as shifting, generative sites of potential. To find new ways, new futures, mass of security lights at the top of a steel post with a concrete footer becomes the stage light for new rituals/dramas. The ecosystem of an abandoned Berlin olympic swimming pool, built during Nazi-era, relives its distraught history alongside new derelict interventions. Trail cam footage of a coyote wandering the wooded interstice to a vacant strip mall offers metaphors of re-inhabiting and reinvention.


Open Access



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