Anyone can walk through this towering new sculpture in Brooklyn Bridge Park that shouts in all caps: “LAND.” But anyone cannot walk through certain lands, especially at border crossings. That juxtaposition comes into stark relief at this recently installed 30-foot sculpture that simultaneously evokes Pop Art and questions the legacy of colonization.
Nicholas Galanin's "In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra" opens today at the Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn in Brooklyn Bridge Park and will be on view through fall 2023.
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From afar, this new piece of public art looks similar to the iconic pop art “LOVE” statue but upon closer examination, the sculpture reads “LAND” in repeated forms. It’s made of corten steel—the identical material and scale of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, using materials that may otherwise have been destined for the construction of the wall.
The work questions the concept of border walls, which cut across land and water, restricting access to the migratory routes necessary for various life forms. This piece, however, defeats the purpose of a wall as a barrier to entry, instead focusing on the Indigenous connection with the land and mutual sustainability that transcends borders.
“Indigenous care for Land and community is rooted in connection based on mutual sustainability. Rather than nationalism or capital, this perspective always embodies a deep respect for life beyond any single generation. ‘In every language, there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra’ questions barriers to Land, which directly reflect barriers to love, love for Land, community, and future generations,” Galanin said in a statement.
Galanin, who is based in Alaska and works from his experience as a Lingít and Unangax̂ artist, has created what the Public Art Fund's director calls "one of the most distinctive and powerful bodies of work in contemporary North American art."
"It is profoundly shaped not only by his Lingít-Unangax̂ heritage, knowledge, and practice, but also by his facility with the forms and concepts of international contemporary art. This Public Art Fund commission, his first public project for New York City, promises to be a major cultural event," Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund artistic and executive director, said in a press release.
The work pulls on the familiar—Pop Art imagery to implicate mass media and pop culture in the dissemination of nationalism. Then it digs into the legacy of colonization and its impact on migration and our relationships with Land across generations, cultures and communities.
Titled in both English and Spanish, Galanin wanted to capture the two languages imposed by colonial regimes on either side of the border. His work calls into question non-Indigenous approaches to ownership and national borders.
Expect several free programs over the run of the exhibition, including screenprinting sessions on August 5, August 19 and September 2 held in both Brooklyn Bridge Park and Corona Plaza in Queens. A performance with Raven Chacon and Laura Ortman will be held on October 21 at Brooklyn Bridge Park.