About fifteen miles uphill from the town of Catskill on the Hudson River, Kaaterskill creek drops dramatically over a precipice and into a basin that forms a hidden pool, then falls again over a second tier before continuing to tumble a bit more gently down towards the Hudson River. In winter, however, that cascade is frozen into a jagged, crystalline petrified Niagara. (1)
In the summertime the trail that leads up to the falls is quite crowded; a concession stand sometimes appears temporarily in the parking lot. The falls have been a popular tourist destination since the early nineteenth century at the least, when they were made famous by Hudson River School painters interested in representing the sublime and inspiring a spirit of exploration and expansion. For some time, wooden staircases descended to the top of the falls from an elaborate mountain lodge above. That site is empty now; the Mountain House is gone, as are the stairs and in the colder months of the year, as in the darker chillier hours of the day, the trail and the falls are left mostly bare of tourists as well.
They say Rip van Winkle, a character made legend by Washington Irving’s 1819 story of the same name, struggled to make sense of his place in the world after falling asleep alongside a dry mountain ravine and waking up some years later to find it transformed into this roaring waterfall. By April 3rd spring is upon us and the water flows freely again over the falls. The sun sets there around 7:22. Moonrise isn’t until after midnight. Once at twilight and once again in the dark, Ilana Halperin leads small groups up the trail to present a program that considers transformation stretched beyond even the scope of Rip’s phenomenally long nap. How do we begin to know ourselves through short duration (everyday moments) and within deep time measured by geological events beyond our immediate comprehension? Is there a line that that can blur between biology and geology? At what moment does wood become stone, peat become coal, limestone become marble? (2)
(1) From Letters from Hawaii by Mark Twain.
(2) From Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.
In lieu of an on-campus presentation originally scheduled for April 26th, Ilana Halperin has made the lecture she presented on the trail available in text form as a PDF for download. This document is available here.
For Beyond The White Cube four curators associated with Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard) organize projects outside of the museum’s galleries in order to encourage endeavors that apply the curatorial beyond exhibition space-proper. Curator-in-residence Anke Bangma organized the first project of the series, including an installation in Bard’s Stevenson Library, during the fall of 2009. This expedition, curated by CCS Bard Curatorial Fellow Christina Linden, will be followed during 2010 with undertakings by CCS Bard faculty member Tirdad Zolghadr and curator-in-residence Ana Paula Cohen.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Ilana Halperin (b. 1973, New York) lives and works in Glasgow. She received a MFA from Glasgow School of Art; Glasgow, Scotland and a BA from Brown University; Providence, RI. Previous solo exhibitions include Physical Geology (slow time) as part of the Spring Exhibition series at Artists Space, New York; Physical Geology (part one) at the Manchester Museum and Nomadic Landmass at doggerfisher in Edinburgh. Her work has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions including Polar Dispatches at the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME; Estratos, PAC Murcia, Spain and Experimental Geography, ICI, currently touring. She has undertaken artist residencies at the Camden Arts Centre, Cove Park and aboard the Professor Molchanov, an ecotourism vessel that travels into the far North.