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Fieldwork Marfa researchers-in-residence delve into social issues, Coppola

March 21st, 2013 under Arts


MARFA – Apocalypse Now, the 1910 post-revolution Mexican exodus, and surveillance culture are the driving forces behind Fieldwork Marfa’s latest artists in residence, Danish artist Joachim Hamou and California-based crystal am nelson, while post-graduate student Vera Delebecque oversees operations as part of her course of study which involves a six-month stint in town.

Hamou, making the best of his three-month residency, will host a series of talks starting April 11 at the Marfa Book Co. titled, “Living on the Edge.” The talks will concentrate on border issues faced throughout the world, focusing not only on the lines drawn on the map, but also in broad, abstract senses.

After studying film in Italy, Hamou began working close to the art scene using film in the 1990s as video became “democratized” with cameras and film becoming more affordable. Activism in his work became more prevalent, he says, during the 10-year reign of right-wing government in his native Denmark.

(photo by JOHN DANIEL GARCIA) From left, Joachim Hamou, crystal am nelson, and Vera Delebecque.

“I had to find a way to work with the aesthetic,” he said. “Images can express traumas that words usually can’t.”

Hamou will also focus some of his time on organizing a performance in relation to Eleanor Coppola’s notes on Apocalypse Now, written during the filming of her husband’s famous film; hoping to be able to bring the writings to life.

“(Coppola) is only observing what she sees. Her words are very general, yet tangible,” explained Hamous about his fascination with the notes. The performance is planned for Saturday, April 27.

Nelson, who earned an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in photography, comes to Marfa after a stint in Miami, having also held research residencies in Boston, Los Angeles, and Haiti.

She came to Fieldwork Marfa with an idea to dig into both the Mexican exodus into the United States following the 1910 revolution, and seeing how it relates to the Great Migration of freed slaves to the north of the country following the Emancipation Proclamation after the Civil War.

“I’m interested in hidden histories and narratives,” said nelson, “and I’m trying to use art to bring them into consciousness.”

Upon coming into Marfa, nelson was struck by the aerostat and its mission as well as how the surveillance has split social groups. Part of her work in Marfa will be to find the cohesive relationship of the blimp and divergence of people with differing ideologies.

Delebecque, though not here as a part of the program to produce art, is an artist in her own right. As she finishes her post-graduate degree in Fine Arts in France, she has found the time to continue on her personal work. Her paintings on paper, which are abstracts with minimalist explorations, were shown in Marfa during a group show with other French students last year.

The three artists agree that the town has been conducive to their work and their experience here thus far has been far from what they expected from a town whose population is under 2,000.

“I knew it was different before coming here,” said nelson, “but I didn’t really know how strong the contemporary art world is. It’s not what I expected. I’ve been the most productive since I’ve been here.”

“I freaked out the first time I came. It was so cool, there were a lot of hip people and shows every night. I thought I was in Berlin. And once I got over the ‘re-culture shock,’ I saw myself as more productive as well,” agreed Hamou.

“It’s different this time for me,” said Delebecque, “I have more time to take things in.”

Fieldwork Marfa is a research-in-residence program led by European universities ESBA Nantes Métropole, HEAD-Genève and Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam dedicated to the practice of art in public space, critical approaches to landscape, and artistic projects based on field investigation methods.

More information on the program can be found at or by e-mailing

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