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Christina Pettersson’s In the Pines

Christina Pettersson, In the Pines, Locust Projects, Installation view. Photo by Eli Peck.

Christina Pettersson: In the Pines

Locust Projects, Miami

July 12 - August 15, 2020 by appointment

By DAVID ROHN, August 2020 

In her moody installation ‘IN THE PINES” at Locust projects, Christina Pettersson evokes and mourns the demise of South Florida’s virgin Rockland Pine Forests, once an important part of our legendary swamp.

A memorial to the mostly disappeared pine forests, (only a small section survives in Everglades National Park), and historical Florida figures who were positively associated with these forests, the installation includes a make-believe cemetery to these figures, and nearby (in Locust’s Project Space), a ’Seance Room’ filled with related books and memorabilia on the subject of early Natural South Florida.

A cluttered sidestep from Miami’s penchant for minimalist / conceptualist disciplines that appeal to intellect, Pettersson’s full-on evocation of an emotive event feels about right during our current pandemic drama.
To enter the Installation, we draw back a heavy dark curtain to a dimly-lit, moss-draped environment carpeted in soft, fragrant pine needles.
A slow melancholic song, (‘In The Pines’), accompanied by guitar strumming, melds softly into the muted space to create a languid dreamy mood.
At the far side of the space a video of a dark-cloaked, hooded figure purposefully makes her way across a seemingly-vast untamed landscape.
As we move forward, a kind of circular cemetery of gravestones, marked with names and mostly long-past dates, comes into focus…an old-style bench suggest a pause. to forget what was left moments ago, on the other side of those old style drapes…to just breathe in and soak up the atmosphere of this dreamy time-travel space.

Here Lieth, …..so-and-so….read the olde-looking gravestones…

Christina Pettersson, In the Pines, Locust Projects, Installation view. Photo by Eli Peck.

On a wall to the right, a series of finely-drafted panels with a burned-in, gothic-style tracery at the top, a pair of ruined gateposts flank a female figure in a landscape, rendered in Pettersson’s signature drawing style.

In the adjoining, smaller rear space, (The Seance Room’) we seem to have moved indoors to a candle-lit , disheveled room, furnished with old pictures, objects and books arranged around a black-draped circular table. 

The whole thing side-steps creepiness and ‘house-of-horror’ sensation, perhaps by a hair, Instead, {strangely perhaps), it’s all kind of soothing….as if the Past, and it’s inevitable losses, could somehow reassure us that drama, (and fear), are the mile-markers of history….that one way or another, life goes on.

Christina Pettersson, In the Pines, Locust Projects, Installation view. Photo by Eli Peck.

A few things come to mind:

The Installation references mid-19th century Gothic Revival, it’s focus on morbid romance, death, Spiritualism, and all that strange sadness-and-longing.of ‘Gothic Novels’ like, (quintessentially), Emily Bronte’s’ ‘Wuthering Heights, where Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw spend their lives acting out their irreconcilable and futile passions all over the barren moors of rural England,... or Edgar Allen Poe’s dark tales of death, obsession and terror. 
…And, by extension, .the original ‘Gothic’ era of knights, castles. crusades, mystical religious passions, rigid, (often cruel) social and economic hierarchies, and predetermined destinies, the occasional plague,…all terminating, (of course), in death.

….all that fatal destiny of unresolvable conflict, yearning and dissolution, of burdensome sadness, and the requisite fashion for summoning spirits in seances…all hopelessly un-Modern!

… but…maybe all hopelessly contemporary too.

(Perhaps not unlike Heathcliff’s untamable Moor, which was eventually incised by a national motorway about a century later, the deaths of South Florida’s unique landscape, and it’s local historical figures, is drearily inevitable.

In hindsight, the morbid nostalgia of 19th century Gothicism was also tied to the concurrent industrialization; the loss of the countryside and the rural life that Van Gogh lamented, and which Marx decried.

Then too, crowded cities, new factory workers’ slums, unsanitary conditions, Cholera and Typhus epidemics (recurrent now in California Homeless communities), displaced people, mismanagement, and wide ‘wealth gaps’ had wrought havoc and misery.
Now, as we watch our natural landscapes further disappear to ‘luxury’ developments, oil and gas exploitation, pipelines, and of course, saturation with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. there’s much to mourn; and in true Gothic form, to despair.

Christina Pettersson, In the Pines, Locust Projects, Installation view. Photo by Eli Peck.

The mood Pettersson creates in these circular spaces suggest that ‘this too shall pass’, … ‘we’ve been here before, and things actually got, (arguably), better afterwards’…

-So evoking the slightly silly, slightly hysterical theatrics of 19th century Gothic revival may serve, by putting at least some of our sense of loss into perspective.

Even so, it would be a mistake to understate the sad transitions of the mid-19th century: The American Civil. War, the British subjugation of India and China, the French subjugation of Africa, and the preponderance of Imperial governments (Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, British and French (second) Empire) which were all in full flower throughout the second half of the 19th century

-Roughly a century after the emergence of the ideals of The Enlightenment, rigid systems of control were in place; almost as if the American and French Revolutions (and the ideals behind them), hadn’t taken place / or hadn’t mattered. 

If Pettersson’s Installation serves as a bittersweet reminder of the frustratingly cyclic nature of historical ‘advancement’, then that’s really just a bonus a lot of people may not be interested in right now, but the show is an interesting window into something that is generally, currently, of perhaps less interest than it ought to be: The Past. WM


David Rohn

David Rohn grew up in the suburbs of New York, the city in which he lived during most of the ’70’s and ’80’s. After studying Architecture, Art and Urbanism at NYU, the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and Pratt Institute, he moved to Miami where in 1995 he began to exhibit paintings, videos, installations, and performances. Currently associated with Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art, Miami, his work has reached museums and collections both public and private. David Rohn has contributed art reviews to Art Press (Paris), The Sun Post (Miami), Art Papers (Atlanta), and TWN (Miami-now defunct), and online publications TuMiami, MAEX and ARTLURKER. For more information please visit: www.davidrohn.net

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