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Marfa Dialogues

Marfa Dialogues / Houston

24 Mar 201626 Mar 2016


Houston, Texas

Ballroom Marfa, FotoFest International and the Public Concern Foundation will bring Marfa Dialogues to Houston, Texas March 24-26, 2016 as part of the FotoFest 2016 Biennial. Join us as we consider the scale of climate disruption from the hyperlocal to the hyperobject. Events will be presented at The Menil Collection, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Marfa Dialogues was conceived in 2010 by Ballroom Marfa Artistic Director Fairfax Dorn and Hamilton Fish of the Public Concern Foundation with the aim of bringing together artists, scientists, writers, and critical thinkers to consider a range of social issues, from immigration to the environmental crisis. Since then Marfa Dialogues has taken place in Marfa, Texas; New York; St. Louis, Missouri; and now Houston, Texas.

Marfa Dialogues/Houston begins Thursday evening, March 24 at 7pm, at the Menil Collection with a keynote address by Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., the President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus. As a minister and community activist, Rev Yearwood is one of the most prominent national figures working to involve communities of color in climate activism and green economy solutions.

This will be followed by a performance from Lucky Dragons, an experimental music group from Los Angeles whose artistic practice aims to create a better understanding of existing ecologies through workshops, publications, and recordings. This site-specific performance will feature a collaboration with Houston-based vocalists, arranged alongside an array of environmental field recordings and live electronics; a composition that lyrically speaks to biodiversity, human ecological impact and climate change as a loss of complexity in a moment of transition.

Programming on Friday, March 25 begins at 6:30pm at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The evening of conversation will include a panel organized around the concept of “Imaging Futures”, which will consider macro-scale observations on Earth landscapes, the long-term effects of anthropocentric climate change, and the possibility of inter-planetary migration. The panel will feature MPA, a performance artist whose most recent body of work looks at the colonization of Mars; Dr. William Stefanov, ISS Program Scientist for Earth Observations at NASA; Jamey Stillings, a photographer who documents human-altered landscapes with an emphasis on environmental sustainability; and Dr. Trevor Williams, whose research focuses on Antarctic ice sheets.

Saturday afternoon’s events at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1-6pm, include a series of presentations, discussions and short films. The Center for Land Use Interpretation and Simparch will present the panel “Inundation and Desiccation: On the Edge in America”, a discussion about floodscapes and deserts. The conversation will range from their collaborations in Houston, including Tex Hex and other activities along the Buffalo Bayou, and their projects on the dried out basins and lakebeds of the desiccated West. Their presentation will be accompanied by a screening of CLUI’s landscan video, Houston Petrochemical Corridor, Texas (2008).

This will be followed by “Metabolic Landscapes,” a conversation connecting energy production, agriculture, and public health including Dr. Geof Rayner and artist Gina Glover co-authors of The Metabolic Landscape: Perception, Practice and the Energy Transition; Dornith Doherty, an artist whose work Archiving Eden looks at international efforts at preservation of biodiversity and food security through seed banks and other initiatives; and Juan Parras, Director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) and an environmental justice ambassador for the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. An excerpt from Sarah Rara’s video The Pollinators (2014) will be screened along with this panel.

Marfa Dialogues/Houston will conclude with “From Hyperlocal to Hyperobject: Art, Ecology, and OOO”, a conversation with Rice University professor Timothy Morton, author of Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (2013) and Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (2016) among many other publications and essays; and international award winning photographer Mandy Barker from Leeds, UK. The exchange will be moderated by author Erik Davis, host of the Expanding Mind podcast. The dialogue will explore the uncanny territory of the aesthetic dimension, anti-anthropocentrism, global warming and much more. Sitting Feeding Sleeping (2013) a short video by Rachel Rose will be screened to compliment this discussion.

The mission of Marfa Dialogues is to discover new perspectives on social issues by examining them through the lens of artistic practice. Marfa Dialogues/Houston brings together a diverse and insightful group of participants from the disciplines of visual art, public policy, critical theory, and environmental science, continuing this program’s open and creative approach to some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Marfa Dialogues/Houston takes place in conjunction with the FotoFest International 2016 Biennial, exploring the theme of CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES: Looking at the Future of the Planet, March 12 – April 24, 2016. The Biennial’s central exhibition features the work of 34 artists from nine countries, examining the dynamics of change and the potential for creative action. Projects address the Anthropocene – climate change; industrialization and urbanization; bio-diversity; water; the use of natural and human resources; human migration; global capital, commerce and consumption; energy production; and waste. Marfa Dialogues/Houston is one of the principal public programs organized with the Biennial, which also includes film series, music performances, lectures, and tours. Details on the full FotoFest 2016 Biennial program may be found at

MD/HOU Video

Video by David Fenster.