September 28 – December 9, 2023
201 South Division Street
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
Open to the public
Free of charge
The Blessings of the Mystery examines themes of socio-economic, environmental activism, encounters between history and memory, Indigenous rights, and the formation and distribution of knowledge. The exhibition examines the Amistad Dam in Del Rio, the largest dam in Rio Grande that is jointly managed by the United States and Mexico and other contested sites in the region to unravel layered histories, connections, and tensions present in West Texas through film, sculpture, installation, collage, and drawing.
The experimental documentary film Teaching of the Hands is the center point of the exhibition — as it combines oral histories, reenactments, and archival footage to narrate a complex history of colonization, migration, and ecological precarity, Told from the perspective of Juan Mancias, Chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, scenes from the present day are woven together with those from 4,000 years in the past to investigate the transformation of Somi Se’k* by way of industry, infrastructure, and private property.
Emerging from the research to create the film, the exhibition includes an immersive installation of surveying flags and tools, series of drawings and collages, and a collection of original watercolors from the 1930s by artists and amateur archaeologists Forrest and Lula Kirkland that depict the ancient rock art of the Lower Pecos,that expand on concepts in The Teachings of the Hands. The watercolors, rarely seen plein air paintings, are on loan from the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas, and document the original forms and vibrant colors of murals that were still visible in the 1930s before flooding, erosion, and human interaction damaged or destroyed them. This exhibition has been shown in various iterations at Ballroom Marfa, the University of Texas at Austin, the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and University of California, Santa Barbara, and will be shown in Michigan and the midwest for the first time.
The Blessings of the Mystery brings together an expansive body of work that sheds light on vital histories, living memories and Indigenous knowledge-systems embedded within the land well before the colonial boundaries between Mexico and the US were established — advocating for environmental justice and recognition of Indigenous rights and cosmologies.