durn that road
20 January 2019 - 16 February 2019
Annabel Howland’s artworks weave speculative webs around ecology, finance and art. Looking through the lenses of different fields of research, she unpicks, isolates and reweaves threads from these systems. The resulting installations constantly shift between scales and perspectives in attempts to fathom and imagine the systems’ complex twists.
The title, ‘Durn that Road’, quotes the character Anse Bundren in William Faulkner’s 1930 novel ‘As I Lay Dying’. Anse is introduced to us through his rant against a road he finds threatening, mainly because it brings people (i.e. the taxman) to his door, but also because of its implicit demand for movement. “When He aims for something to be always a moving, He makes it longways, like a road or a horse or a wagon, but when He aims for something to stay put, He makes it up and down ways, like a tree or a man.”
For her exhibition at Bradwolff Projects, Howland has developed a multimedia installation, which takes as its point of departure a road through the rainforest in the state of Sarawak on Borneo (East Malaysia). This road, which was first laid by logging companies, started on the coast and was extended through to villages near the border with Indonesia around 2010 where a minority language is spoken, Sa’ban. The building of this section of the road coincidentally overlapped with the publication of a trilingual Malay-Sa’ban-English picture dictionary written by Dr Beatrice Clayre, who lived in the area in the 1960s. In 2016, Annabel Howland travelled the length of the road with Dr Clayre’s son, anthropologist Alasdair Clayre, and two Sa’ban men, filming and interviewing people about the road, their languages and their way of life.
Howland started with simple questions about how the arrival of a road affects the people living along it, and how a minority language fairs under the changes a road brings. But a line through the rainforest that links communities, which used to be separated by many days travel on foot or by boat, also links other lines that criss-cross the globe, following the long flow of financial capital, raw materials, and religion.
The installation is structured around strong verticals and horizontals, intermittently penetrated by single point perspective.
Annabel Howland (UK/NL) is an artist based in Amsterdam. She recently concluded a long-term project Producers-Parasites-Hosts with a multimedia installation at VU Amsterdam during Get Lost- art route 2018. The first iteration of Producers-Parasites-Hosts was a sound performance at the 2013 Athens Biennial, ‘AGORA’. Other recent exhibitions include ‘At Altitude’ (Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, UK, 2018); and ‘Triangulations’ (Producers-Parasites-Hosts Flevopark) (Het Rode Loper Festival, Flevopark Amsterdam, 2017).