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Owning Earth: Open Call RFP

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Owning Earth: Open Call RFP



Owning Earth

In an effort to rethink notions of control, domination, and stability underlying contemporary land-use practices, this exhibition will bring together conceptually rigorous and ambitious land-based art works and outdoor installations that:

1. probe/problematize cultures of human settlement and contemporary land-use practices.


2. explore alternate/subaltern land-use histories and practices that can usher us into a world to come.

All work will be installed in an outdoor sculpture garden for a period of up to two years. Therefore, artists must consider the effects of time and weather on their proposed projects. Participating artists may be asked to lead one public program or workshop on a topic related to their work in the show.

Owning Earth
Exhibition and Public Event Series
At Unison Arts Center
Organized by Tal Beery

Exhibition Location: Unison Arts Center (New Paltz, NY)
Exhibition Dates: September, 2020 to September, 2022
Installation Period: July 20, 2020 to September 18, 2020
Opening Reception: September 27, 2020
Proposals Due: Proposals accepted on a rolling basis, but no later than Dec 1, 2019


The advent of agriculture ushered in an era of human dominance that now appears threatened. This dominance was the result of more than just technologically-driven production surpluses and consequent population booms. It was made possible by a profound cultural transformation that began just prior to agriculture and has persistently escalated in influence until today. In those mostly pre-agricultural days, numerous human communities throughout the world simultaneously became convinced of a new divine order, one where humans were distinct from and masters over nature. Agriculture was therefore not only a better way to get food. In fact, often it was not, and quality of life in many agricultural societies suffered. Instead, agricultural practices, as the actualization of human mastery, were simply better aligned with those new fictions undergirding an increasingly common human worldview.

Social theorists like Murray Bookchin have argued that this new culture of domination spread from land to other arenas: human over animal, man over woman, one race over another, have over have not. But such a culture could be its own undoing. Systems theorists like Donella Meadows and Gregory Bateson routinely warn of the self-reinforcing imbalances that result from trying to control systems we know little about. The ecological conditions facing us today are strong evidence of this, but have not dampened calls from eco-modernists to engineer the climate or brighten the polar ice caps. In reaching for the very pinnacle of human supremacy, we may be inviting a far more decisive demonstration than we have seen yet of our actual place in the order of things.

With human survival at stake, the case for uprooting this culture is stronger than ever. In response, Owning Earth at Unison Arts Center will help bring critical attention to an emerging movement of creative practitioners undertaking outdoor installations and land-based projects that confront systems of domination. This ambitious exhibition will survey, convene, and elevate artists whose projects seek to bring us into right relationship with land.

The exhibition will be guided by two aims. The first is to probe and problematize the culture of human settlement and cultivation practices and to contest notions of town and country, cosmopolitan and local. The second is to explore histories and practices that may help us diverge from our environmental collision course by offering counter-proposals to prevailing land-use practices. The show will therefore rethink radicality in contemporary art, as its aim will be to root us in land as well as in alternate pasts and practices while identifying and directly confronting the sources of injustice. As such, this exciting and timely exhibition is especially interested in including artists with an active involvement in the Hudson Valley, as well as artists of Indigenous heritages.

About Unison Arts Center

Unison Arts Center is a 40-year-old arts and culture organization in New Paltz, NY, a mile and a half from the town center and the campus of SUNY New Paltz. Unison will soon connect to a well trafficked rail trail linking the town to the Shawangunk Ridge and a 90-mile recreational trail system. The primary outdoor exhibition space is a 5-acre wood and meadow that serves as an experimental space for site-specific sculpture and installation, performance, and socially engaged art as well as activities that activate the space as a site for learning, play, contemplation, dialogue, and connection. The Unison gallery will also serve as an auxiliary programming space.

Funding and Resources

Unison Arts Center has committed to paying a modest artist fee (amount TBD) and to assist with installation costs on a case-by-case basis. Unison will be producing a catalogue for the show in which each artists’ work will be featured alongside essays situating the work in an art historical context.

Site Descriptions

Installations will be sited in one of the following locations.

1. Entrance
A sunny and grassy space at the entrance to the show.

2. Corridor
Numerous small clearings (approximately 12’ x 12’) in a wooded corridor receiving moderate sun. Installation sites are connected by a mulched path. Installations here can interact with trees or bushes. One installation site includes a small pump-fed pond (10’x10’).

3. Meadow
A large grassy meadow that receives a great deal of sun and can accommodate larger-scale work.

4. Woods
A flat, wooded and shady area.

Please note, if consistent with the exhibition theme, artists may propose all varieties of interventions or alterations to land, such as implementing a water source. Artists may also take full advantage of tree cover in the Corridor or Woods areas by suspending work from branches.

Public events or Workshops can take place throughout the grounds as described above, or in the following two locations:

1. Gallery
A heated interior space with wood floors and space for up to 40 people. Unison has many chairs, a projection screen, and projector.

2. Firepit
A large outdoor firepit that seats up to 16 people. Chairs are available.

For more information about the site or to schedule a tour, email owningearth@gmail.com.

Submission Requirements

Please answer the questions below in a separate document (.docx or .pdf file types only, please) and email it as an attachment to owningearth@gmail.com:

Personal Information
1. Full Name / Email / Phone number / Mailing Address
If proposing as a collective, include the full names of all collective members, but only the contact info for a single point person is required.

2. Link to a personal website or portfolio

3. Submit your CV as an additional attachment (.docx or .pdf filetypes only) (Optional)

Project Information
4. Provide a concrete description of your proposed land-based art work or outdoor installation. Clearly articulate the way this project addresses the themes of this show. Explain how your proposed project is designed to withstand and/or engage with the effects of time and weather over an installation period of up to two years. Indicate the location on Unison’s grounds (as described above) that you believe would best accommodate your work. (~500 words)

5. Submit an image or drawing to illustrate your proposed project as an additional attachment (.docx, .pdf, or .jpg filetypes only) (Optional but recommended)

6. Write a short description of a public program or workshop, related to your proposed project, that you would be interested in leading. Indicate the location on Unison’s grounds (as described above) that you believe would best accommodate your work. (~200 words)

7. Please submit the names of two other artists or collectives who’s work inspires you and also addresses the themes of this show.

8. Please submit a description or link to a website for one (“non-art”) organization or initiative, active in the Northeastern U.S., that is effectively addressing an issue related to the themes of your proposed installation or public event/workshop.


All questions related to this RFP or Owning Earth can be directed to Tal Beery: owningearth@gmail.com