The Earth Will Not Abide


Contact: Erin Nixon, Assistant Director, 312 996 6114,

The Earth Will Not Abide

Gallery 400
April 20-June 10, 2017

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Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross, Research photograph for A Great Green Desert, 2016. 

Artists included: Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross, Brian Holmes and Alejandro Meitin, Sarah Lewison and duskin! drum, Claire Pentecost

March 1, 2017—Chicago, IL—The exhibition The Earth Will Not Abide poses questions about the ecological and social viability of industrial agriculture and extractive land use. These artist projects, spanning video, creative mapping, paintings, and installation, comprise an investigation of and aesthetic response to these questions, employing a variety of media and methods. Artists Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross, Brian Holmes and Alejandro Meitin, Sarah Lewison and duskin drum, and Claire Pentecost draw connections between lands in the US, Brazil, Argentina, and China that have been—and are currently being—engineered to support an agricultural economy based on monoculture. The Earth Will Not Abide attempts to understand the rapid transformations in land use, biological diversity, and social structures wrought by these monocultures and envision how the analytical tools of political ecology allow us to visualize and critique this subject, while also pointing us in the direction of viable responses.

A Great Green Desert, a documentary project by Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross, places viewers in the middle of massive, yet often overlooked, terraforming project—the industrial corn and soybean regions of the US Midwest and the interior plateaus of Brazil. For The Earth Will Not Abide, Griffis and Ross bring together documentary fieldwork, archival and literary research, and interviews with experts, scholars, and activists. This resulting multi-channel video installation offers a combination of narrative, analytical, and aesthetic interpretations of the impact of extractive agriculture.

A research node and interactive website, Living Rivers is an extensive mapping project devoted to the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds. It shows these fluid ecosystems as they are inhabited by a multitude of creatures, and as they are radically altered by human enterprise. Within Living Rivers, Brian Holmes and Alejandro Meitin propose four map categories that unfurl the map’s major themes: biomes (natural landscapes), which give way to anthromes (artificially conditioned territories). Wars trace conflicts over the proper management and care of these changing territories, while visions seek new paths for the future through the eyes of artists, scientists, philosophers, and mystics.

Analyzing the conception and purpose of territorial division, Alejandro Meitin’s Who Designs Territories? explores the transformation of land use in South America, particularly as a result of the infrastructure building campaign of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), which connects the economies of South America through transportation, energy, and communication projects.

On the occasion of the 17th Congress of the People’s Republic of China in 2007, 30 years into the process of “reform and opening up,” President Hu Jintao pledged to extend agricultural modernization to the nation’s peripheries, including the indigenous highlands. Naxilandia is Sarah Lewison’s semi-fictional inquiry into the elective, empowered, and social nature of subsistence agriculture and its potential of resistance in the face of nation building. Recorded over six months in rural Yunnan Province, this multi-channel video installation traces the contradictions created as subsistence life encounters enclosure. 

As a written proclamation, the Cornstitution: An Anthermation of the Rights of Maize punfully inquires into the fundamental nature of corn itself, speculatively constructing rights as that which emanates from the possibilities of an organism perceived by humans, but not for them. The Cornstitution pamphlet, offered as a multiple for viewers to read aloud and take home, is a portion of a larger performance and sculptural work in development by collaborative mother and son team Sarah Lewison and duskin! drum.

Claire Pentecost’s collaged painting series Pandora’s Basket originates with archival photographic images of farming experiments in the early 20th century, layered with images from her own documentary photographs exploring contemporary agricultural practices in Argentina and the U.S. The paintings focus on several motifs: the specimen, the machine, the product, and the numbers.

Preceding the exhibition, the program series This Land/That Land: Discussions About Political Ecology and Place hosts artists, ecologists, farmers, and activists that deal with the politics of sustainability, the effects of industrial agriculture, conservation efforts, and land use and land rights to explore both traditional and emerging alternatives to the industrial food system.

Gallery 400 The Earth Will Not Abide Programs:

Thursday, April 20, 5-8pm—Opening Reception: The Earth Will Not Abide

Saturday, April 22-Sunday, April 23, 10am-6pm—Homegrown Justice Stand

Thursday, May 18, 6-8pm—Farm-to-Fork Dinner: Waste Not, Want Not

Tuesday, May 23, 5-8pm + Wednesday, May 24, 9am-5:30pm—This Land/That Land Symposium: The Politics of Land Sovereignty and Environmental Racism

Wednesday, May 31, 6-8pm—Ecopoetry Workshop: Forms & Features, Presented in Partnership with the Poetry Foundation


Gallery 400 also offers guided tours for groups of all ages. Tours are free of charge but require reservation. Please complete our online form (accessible at to schedule a tour of The Earth Will Not Abide. For more information, or to discuss the specific needs and interests of your group, please contact us at 312 996 6114 or

Major support for The Earth Will Not Abide is provided by the Humanities Without Walls consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Consulate General of Argentina in Chicago; the School of Art & Art History, the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. The Daryl Gerber Stokols and Jeff Stokols Voices Series Fund provides general support to Gallery 400.

Founded in 1983, Gallery 400 is one of the nation's most vibrant university galleries, showcasing work at the leading edge of contemporary art, architecture, and design. The Gallery's program of exhibitions, lectures, film and video screenings, and performances features interdisciplinary and experimental practices. Operating within the School of Art and Art History in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Gallery 400 endeavors to make the arts and its practitioners accessible to a broad spectrum of the public and to cultivate a variety of cultural and intellectual perspectives. Gallery 400 is recognized for its support of the creation of new work, the diversity of its programs and participants, and the development of experimental models for multidisciplinary exhibition.