Artist Colleen Plumb & writer Katherine Kassouf Cummings share with us the process and inspiration behind their collaborative, interactive piece The Invisible Visible (A Phoenix Zones Initiative Project), 2020, on view as part of "Photography & _____."
Expressed through photography, sculpture, video, and writing, Colleen Plumb & Katherine Kassouf Cummings’ collaboration invites an examination of our relationship to the invisible that exists all around us. An image slowly breathes, appearing and disappearing: a color photograph of a raw wing bone from a chicken. This photograph “breathes” on a plaster-cast sculpture of a chicken wing. The photograph moves our eyes beneath the surface of the wing, into the interior, uplifting what’s invisible. Flanking the wing are chalk white bones cast from a chicken bone. This delicate line of bones mirrors the physical experience of workers in a slaughterhouse, standing in compact rows. As the photograph bone breathes, we are invited to join the artist in an act of witnessing the chickens and the workers, together subjected to the suffering created by our industrial food system. Alongside the bones hangs a newsprint poster, bound into a pad affixed to the wall, with writings attending to the question of what makes the invisible visible. Prints can be torn from the wall, and viewers of this work are invited to absorb the writings, to take the stories with them and carry the practice out into the world.
Colleen Plumb makes photographs, videos, and installations investigating systems that perpetuate power imbalances between humans and nonhuman animals. Her focus for over two decades has been an inquiry into a society whose appetite for animals, whether in flesh or in reproduction, with admiration or obsession, is voracious. Plumb’s recent projects explore the ways animals in captivity function as symbols of persistent colonial thinking, and how a striving for human domination over nature has been normalized. Her work sheds light on the lives of captive animals in order to bring attention to the implicit values of society as a whole, particularly those that perpetuate power imbalance and a tyranny of artifice. Her current project Form Align, of which this installation is a part, reflects upon the industrial food system and meatpacking industry through the bones and bodies of chickens.
Katherine Kassouf Cummings is a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, an ecological citizen, and a writer. She is co-editor of the forthcoming book What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? (University of Chicago Press, 2021). She serves as Managing Editor at the Center for Humans and Nature, an organization that engages in publication and land-based practice to explore and promote ethics in humans and nature relationships.