Rachel Eng

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To Displace Something 

As humans we often categorize things to help us understand them better, some being  either human-made or natural. I am interested in the similarities shared between these  categories and the structures that humans implement and ones that would occur  without us present. I see our environment and landscape as open systems worked on  by outside forces, not exclusive of ourselves. My work grapples with topics, such as  climate change, land use/development, and their connection to memory. By paying  close attention to a small aspect of the system, I work to reveal the whole through an  analysis of its parts. 


I undertake projects that employ clay, video projections, and sounds to create layered  and contemplative pieces as well as compositions using found materials. Change,  decay, and regeneration are central content to these artworks in which the subject  matter is our environment and our changing relationship to it. What is defined as  ‘nature’ can be a variety of things, from a parking lot to a garden to a forest. These  artworks are often driven by a question, and through the process of making more  questions arise. I do not see the finished works as answers but a way to share an  experience that possesses the complexity of these topics. 


My current work investigates the idea of “deep time” and focusing on non-human  events that have shaped our planet. This concept was originally developed in the 18th century and attributed to Scottish geologist James Hutton and the modern concept  shows enormous changes throughout the existence of Earth, are the result of a long  and complex history of developments, that occurred over a span of 4.55 billion years. 


As humans it is difficult for us to grasp large numbers or things that we cannot see.  When reviewing the history of this planet, the human inhabited period is merely a dot  at the end of a very long line. Understanding parts of this rich history can help bring  light to the rhythms and interconnectedness of systems and life forms from the past  and in our present.  


The temporary lifespan of the unfired clay installations and site-specific interventions  comment on the transitory and ever-changing planet we live on. The forms reference  organisms that recycle nutrients in our world and often times have amazing adaptations  to different climates. They are foreign yet familiar, as many organisms that carry out  these processes are looked over or too small to see with the naked eye.


They could 

exist on land or water, or even billions of years ago, when our planet was uninhabitable  for humans. These pieces continuously change throughout their exhibition, as a once  lush landscape becomes brittle and fragile as it dries out. Cracked surfaces are  reminiscent of sun-bathed parched grounds. Clay when unfired, can be recycled  infinitely. The life of the material evolves, being re-constructed into a new piece or  other times becoming part of the earth again, through its dispersal in the landscape. It  is important that these works are made with my hands, the process and labor are a  significant part in its meaning. I think about it in relation to the Tibetan Buddhist  tradition of creating sand mandalas, where after the laborious process of creating, the  mandala is swept away.