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Young Suh and Katie Peterson: Can We Live Here? Stories From A Difficult World

Not on view
1/20/2016 - 3/13/2016
Organizing institution: Mills College Art Museum

Photographer Young Suh and poet Katie Peterson create new work in their first collaborative exhibition together, featuring photography, video, installation, and performance. Drawing on a shared interest in landscape developed in different media, their project examines the struggle of humans to survive in a rapidly changing natural world, and the shifting concepts of nature that govern that world. In Can We Live Here? Stories From A Difficult World, the artists create works that upend the Romantic tradition of the sublime landscape and respond to the Romantic tradition of populist, narrative storytelling. These works bring into focus how daily life itself is charged with a sense of environmental disaster, and elevating the stakes of ordinary experience past the ordinary to the mythic.

Two screening rooms will feature new videos that explore in narrative and abstract form how civilization’s failures follow us into natural experience, especially during a time of environmental crisis. The exhibition also showcases a new series of photographs, both as large-scale prints and in intimate book form. The images depict human activity within the beautiful and remote landscapes of the California desert and Alaska. Incongruous props and details force a new examination of the expectations of nature as a sanctuary and untamed wilderness. References to Emily Dickinson appear through multiple recreations of her small writing desk, inviting visitors to engage directly with the artists’ books, which bring together photography and resonant, concise text to create a contemplative space. A donkey appears as a disruptive protagonist throughout the work, surfacing in the video and materializing as a performance figure. With this exhibition, Suh and Peterson present a poetic series of works that subtly disrupt assumptions about both the depiction and perception of being in nature.


Young Suh is Associate Professor of Art and Co-Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of California, Davis. He received his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and his BFA from Pratt Institute. His work has been exhibited widely, including shows at Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA; the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento, CA; Gallery ON, Seoul, Korea; the Chelsea Art Museum, New York, NY; The Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA; SF Camerawork, San Francisco, CA; and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA.

Katie Peterson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She received her PhD from Harvard University and her BA from Stanford University. She is the author of three collections of poetry, This One Tree (2006), Permission (2013) and The Accounts (2013). She is the winner of the 2014 Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas.

This exhibition is supported by the Agnes Cowles Bourne Fund for Special Exhibitions and the Joan Danforth Art Museum Endowment.


Opening Reception
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 | 6:00-8:00 pm MCAM
Come celebrate the opening of Can We Live Here? Stories From A Difficult World with a drove of disrupting donkeys and a performance by Mills College faculty Chris Brown (music) and Shinichi Iova-Koga (dance).

Bray, a performance
Tuesday, February 2, 2016 | 6:00 pm MCAM
Mills College dance faculty Shinichi Iova-Koga along with students of his Interdisciplinary Collaborations class and special guests present a new performance work inspired by Can We Live Here? Stories From A Difficult World.

Artist Talk: Young Suh and Katie Peterson
Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | 7:00 pm Danforth Lecture Hall
Young Suh and Katie Peterson discuss their first collaborative work together. Moderated by MCAM director Stephanie Hanor.

Writers and Musicians Respond to Can We Live Here
Wednesday, March 9, 2016 | 7:00 pm
Join artists Katie Peterson and Young Suh and friends for an evening of listening to work composed by writers and musicians in response to the exhibit.

Exhibition Objects (1)

Homer 2016.10

Exhibition Images (23)

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