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smudge studio

Oct 6, 2023 – Nov 20, 2023
Window Gallery
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In conjunction with the installation at SPACE, smudge studio (Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse) installed a window piece at OBSERVATORY located at 158 High Street in Belfast, Maine. It documents the sharing of planetary tea in Coastal Maine. These two synchronous installations extend awareness of the varied geologic surfaces that span the North American continent, activating and connecting them as the planetary space for tea.

smudge studio 002023

Early in a visual arts residency at the Banff Centre (Meeting for Teas) this past August/September, smudge studio was given a tour of the facilities, which included a room where a geologic outcropping of the Mountain entered the architecture of the building — and seemingly spilled into the room. The presence of the geology inside the space was astounding — and immediately reminded Ellsworth and Kruse of outcroppings found oceanside along the coast of Maine. The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is situated on the side of Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain, within Banff National Park.

Sacred Guardian Buffalo Mountain surfaces within Banff Centre campus buildings behind closed doors, under tables, through forgotten rooms, under plywood boxes and runs alongside infrastructural pipes. With the assistance of the Director of Facilities, Ellsworth and Kruse visited, documented, and offered tea to nine mountain outcroppings found within the Banff campus, connecting them through a distributed, mobile tea event. A photo was taken at each of nine sites of interior outcroppings as tea was poured, and each appears as it currently co-exists alongside the ephemeral lives and practices of humans in 002023. 

The images for the SPACE gallery installation were created on August 24th, 002023, in the papermaking area in the basement of Glyde Hall at the Banff Centre. The space was smudged in advance by Heather Shillinglaw. This was the only tea event staged directly upon the Mountain surface where smudge studio also drank tea (Yamashita’s gyokuro* 山下玉露). This tea event also focused on the challenges that exposed geologic surfaces present to human navigation. The artists state: “We adapted and slowed our movements to the uneven contours. We addressed the dynamic geologic surfaces as a planetary structure for tea, activating the nooks and crannies of the raw, exposed geology as affordances for tea preparation and sharing. As we offered warm water, and then tea, to the outcropping, a strong scent of moistened rock/earth immediately filled the space around us.”

The practice respectfully addresses the mountain, and its continuum, as a dynamic, structural space for sharing tea — a planetary tea room, and focuses human attention towards larger, living and continuously changing geologic forces beneath and around human civilization, and the long, planetary futures yet to come.

For the past two years, smudge studio have been making and adapting tea practices to the site-specific conditions of coastal Maine. The jagged, vertical uprisings, cracked, geometric and eroding blocks of enduring geology have become the “living” site/active surface plane of their creative practice — they adapt their bodies and their tea ware, to the continuously changing meteorological and geological conditions found at such dynamic and enduring geo-cosmo sites. 

*山下玉露 is a shade grown tea from Japan. 山下 is a family name for one of Japan’s most revered gyokuro growers and translates as “under mountain.”

smudge studio is a collaboration between Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse.

Their media include photography, performative research, multiples, installation and micro-productions. Inspired by both ancient and contemporary observations of Earth’s time and place in the cosmos, the duo stages embodied engagements with the planet’s ever-transforming events and conditions — human and nonhuman. The artists define this “to be vital aesthetic-ecological act.”

Jamie Kruse is an artist, designer and Assistant Professor at Parsons, The New School for Design (New York, NY). Her work has been supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, The New School Green Fund (Office of Sustainability, The New School); New York State Council for the Arts, the Tishman Environment and Design Center and the Brooklyn Arts Council, among others. She has exhibited and presented her work both nationally and internationally. In the spring of 2014 she was a guest researcher for Future North (AHO Oslo).

Elizabeth Ellsworth is Emeritus Professor, School of Media Studies, The New School, New York. Elizabeth’s research and teaching focus on media and change; the design of mediated learning environments; and documentary forms. Her scholarship consists of projects and practices that fuse performative research with aesthetic experience and public pedagogy. She is author of Places of Learning: Media, Architecture, Pedagogy (Routledge, 2004) and Teaching Positions: Difference, Pedagogy and the Power of Address (Teachers College Press, 1997).