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Profile: 2019-2020 Graduate Arts Fellow Cassandra Klos

2019-2020 Graduate Arts Fellow Cassandra Klos has an abiding love for nature and science fiction. These influences are apparent across diverse photographic explorations of pain, stories of alien abduction, and her ongoing project focusing on space simulations across the country. That latter series, Mars on Earth, documents the work of scientists and artists as they prepare for the possible colonization of Mars. Klos has been a participant as well as an observer of these efforts. Traveling to remote, rocky sites in Utah, Texas, and Hawaii, Klos and her colleagues work to imagine and (as much as practicable) live as if they have left earth behind.

Documenting this work has at times created its own special challenges. Klos shot most of Life on Mars using a 4×5” large format camera. “I brought the oldest camera to this futuristic space,” she says. Dragging her heavy camera and tripod around, sometimes while wearing a full spacesuit, Klos captured landscapes and people operating in the space between the familiar and the speculative.

As part of her fellowship, Klos is curating an exhibit for the Keohane-Kenan Gallery this spring. Existence on the Periphery is one of her first curatorial projects. Bringing together artists working in illustration, film, and still photography, the show considers the likely impact of the Anthropocene on the environments in which humans persist and might eventually live. “The goal,” she says, “is to imagine different realities than what we’re accustomed to.”

Each artist in the exhibit facilitates that imagining. David Alabo, who is based in Ghana, creates lush illustrations that meditate on possible futures for sub-Saharan Africa. Allison Cekala’s video work of road salt makes visible the ways that resources are extracted and travel around the globe, creating an opportunity to consider the human hands and needs involved. Acacia Johnson’s photographs of indigenous people in the Arctic document the persistence of a way of life at the edges of human habitation—a way of life under existential threat from climate change. Video work by Janet Biggs offers considerations of how we might use technology in new ways. The show also features work from Klos’s Mars on Earth series.

Existence on the Periphery will be on display in the Keohane-Kenan Gallery from February 17th through March 29th.

A panel featuring Allison Cekala, Acacia Johnson, and Duke Professor of Cultural Anthropology Ralph Litzinger will take place in the Ahmadieh Conference Room on February 20th at 5:30pm. Reception to follow.

A film screening of Zhao Liang’s feature documentary Behemoth and short works by Janet Biggs and Allison Cekala will take place on February 24th at the Rubenstein Arts Center.