Manifest Signs IV

Manifest Signs IV, 2017
Vinyl. 12’ x 16’

Introduction by Amanda Donnan
[Excerpt]For AND NOT OR, Feddersen is planning vinyl mural entitled Manifest Signs IV, which draws on imagery and themes that recur throughout Feddersen’s recent artworks. The mural, the artist explains, will “depict the death of Coyote, the anti-hero of mischief in Plateau oral tradition, whose role it is to explain the world and to model potential mistakes, so that we may choose better ourselves.” Coyote has played a prominent role in Feddersen’s series Coyote Now (2015-ongoing), which imagines the mythical figure as the catalyst of contemporary events both local and global, including climate change, the advent of the Internet, and the creation of the Space Needle. Coyote Now has taken the form of interactive installations in which viewer-participants are invited to draw and color with cast-wax, bone-shaped crayons, and in the process to “re-engage with imaginative story-telling through their current life experiences.”

The skull forms—stacked in pyramidal fashion— refer to an unattributed photograph from the mid-1870s, in which two white men stand atop and before an enormous mound of bison skulls. The photograph speaks to the magnitude of an atrocity, not only of a species driven to the brink of extinction by human greed, but of systematic disenfranchisement and coercion of native peoples. Contrary to popular belief, bison were not just overhunted for their hides and bones, which were ground to make fertilizer and fine bone China, but slaughtered in vast numbers (est. 270 million total) to deprive the plains Indians of their staple food source and thus drive them west, onto reservations on less desirable lands.

The depiction of temporary wooden power posts—which are used to tie-off electricity during the demolition and construction of homes—are reimagined as “beacons that portend gentrification and scaffolds that uphold societal ideology and duplicity.” The imagery in this mural also appeared in Feddersen’s sculptural installation, Disconnected Towers (2015), a reflection on the displacement of racial minorities and the poor that has occurred in Seattle with an influx of white-collar transplants. Installed in the Seattle Municipal Gallery, the seemingly conversant blinking towers multiplied over the course of the exhibition to consume and dominate the space.
Together, Feddersen says, the imagery “reflect a trajectory, as a history of genocide and colonialism has continued through the ongoing efforts to destroy, convert, gentrify, and expand. However, it is of note that Coyote is immortal. As long as a part of his remains survive he can be resurrected, eager for our creativity to continue his role as the Trickster, showing us the folly of our ways and empowering us to shape our world.” This vitally important message resonates in the context of a university library, particularly one situated in a city built on un-ceded Duawmish land, and on a campus just over the “red line” in the historically black Central District.

Feddersen chose to replace two sets of prints from the 3rd and 6th floors of the library: a set of five shin-hanga woodblock prints from the 1940s by Kasui Hawase, and Roy Lichtenstein’s series of seven 1969 Haystacks screenprints, a mechanical version of Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s studies of dawn-to-dusk light effects. Feddersen relates her vinyl printing process to printmaking, but has not taken either print series’ physical location in the library. Rather, her work appears on marble pillars that were once the façade of the original 1966 library building, and which were interiorized during a 2010 expansion. This siting and its symbolic connection to expansionism are apt for Feddersen’s project, reminding us as it does of the legacies of Manifest Destiny and our capacity to create the better future we want.

2017 And Not Or, Hedreen Gallery- Seattle University Library. On view through August 12, 2017