“Systems Processing” exhibit plants collaboration between art and agriculture at GVSU


Systems Processing Curatorial Exhibition. Courtesy / GVSU VMA

Mary Racette

The Curatorial Studio course and the Sustainable Agricultural program collaborated to present a collection of interdisciplinary and multimedia artists at the “Systems Processing” art exhibition. The event was held at the Sustainable Agriculture Project in Allendale, and it took place on Nov. 29 and 30.

The art exhibit was organized by professor Dulcee Boehm’s Curatorial Studio course. The course was structured to teach students how to curate a show and the curriculum allowed the students to experience the development of the “Systems Processing” exhibit, a project the students worked on for a large portion of the semester.

The course collaborated with the Sustainable Agricultural Project by using the space on the farm to showcase art inspired by thematic elements of nature and sustainability. The unique setting allowed the art to be displayed in a way which offered a more interactive experience for all viewers. 

“We chose this space because we wanted to get away from the white-walls gallery and utilize unconventional space for our show,” said visual studies student Malina Pawloski. 

Another student in the Curatorial Studio course, Erin Routledge, commented on her excitement to see the programs from which they collaborated with on this exhibit receive exposure from the community, acknowledging that there are students who are not yet familiar with both the Sustainable Agriculture Project and the university’s Visual Arts program.

According to Routledge and Pawloski, the class’s intention was to develop a connection between the exhibit’s location and the art within the exhibit. Paired with the agricultural setting, the exhibit included artists who integrated themes of nature and the environment into their work.  

“We wanted the pieces to reflect the space,” Pawloski said. “We chose artists and works that go along with this idea of nature and landscape.”

While a majority of the pieces were mediated through video and sound, the greenhouse setting was intended to stimulate the viewers’ senses, as they were offered the opportunity to walk in between the rows of plants and be surrounded by nature. One of the featured artists in particular, Ruth Burke, presented a multimedia piece which created a sensory experience for the viewer. Her piece was displayed in its own isolated shed and consisted of hay bales surrounding a screen that projected her interaction with a cow she is familiar with. 

Each artist used different aspects of nature to accentuate the messages within their work. Artist Gustavo Plascencia said his training in photography has developed into a practice of interdisciplinary photography, which is shown in his exhibit piece. He shared his interest in creating “poetic imagery made out of landscape.” 

“It’s really about having a culture of generosity,” Burke said. ”It is a huge act of generosity to show up and experience the art in person.”