[En anglais] My first impression of artist and author Alisha Piercy’s installation, SWAMPSTILLS, was of an informally and even casually arranged pile of materials whose colours and textures merged indistinctly together. This perception was prompted by the discarded look of half-empty orange sandbags punctuating rumpled bolts of drably tie-dyed canvas unfurled and draped over a small platform and stretched up a wall. Atop this dais stood vaguely canine-shaped sculptures in rough papier-mâché, one of them seemingly doused with tar, along with small outcroppings of untreated clay. Hung up an adjacent wall, a very large, sensitively handled pencil and ink drawing in purplish hues comprised similarly washed-out ranges and fuzzy mirroring Rorschach geometries. Coloured gels tinted the fluorescent tubes above, nudging the tones of the room further toward murky ambiguity. More sandbags were laid in a corner with a chapbook and a note: Hush, lie down. Read (7 mins).
The writing in the booklet, apparently an excerpt from a forthcoming novel, orbited mostly around a pack of plantation dogs in the Deep South, and their path to a swamp refuge, as well as murmurings of weather events far away that would soon force an implied transformative encounter. Various links emerged between the materials around the booklet and the language within it: the flowing and blotted marks on paper and cloth now rhymed with hurricane cloud shapes, the stained canvas evoked sunken mud, and the gruff dog poetry annotated deceptively frank-looking objects: “Dogs don’t see much red so the pack reads this as popsicle tones: a cascade of bland leading down toward ultraviolet.”11 1 - The installation was thereby narrativized, its components behaving less like illustrations and more like the extension and blurring of the edges of the story. In its larger narrative effect, the elements blended the human, animal, and environmental stories into a single interdependent ambiance, recalling the theories of Donna Haraway or Anna Lowenhaupt-Tsing, where the hierarchies of sentience break down upon closer inspection. “The hurricane speaks to the tree that speaks to the dogs sleeping under it and the message of trouble passes from dog to girl.”22 2 - Ibid