The Unsettlements

Begun in September 2018, The Unsettlements are a growing body of work that delve into sites of trauma, violence, and familial memory in Houston and in Texas, places where seven generations of my mainly German settler-colonial family have lived. The project delves into family history and narratives with all of their unreliability and their surprise. An attempt to imagine ways of unsettling genealogical claims, of grounding beyond white nationalism, and of challenging white supremacy and heterosexism. The Unsettlements: a series of on-going activities, rituals, investigations, creations, & writings that will continue and find new iterations over the span of the next decade or so.


The Unsettlements: Dad

This first exhibition of this work—The Unsettlements: Dad—was part of citysinging, the 2018/2019 Artist Studio Program Exhibition, curated by Laura August. The exhibition was focused on my father, on his life and his parents' lives in Houston from the 1910s through the 1970s. I worked with him, the archive, and other family members to identify sites of trauma, violence, memory, forgetting, or loss in the local area, and then did a series of rituals at those sites: observing, walking, wandering, using my phone camera to take video and photos, and finally gathering materials from the sites to make what became the "object poems" that are at the core of the exhibition. Originally assembled in my studio, in the gallery space, they have taken on new forms, mutating and transforming.

While they existed in the studio and in the gallery, these object poems and their corresponding videos became markers of a relationship between self, family, landscape, and history. Some of these sites hold moments of history that are not recognized or known as such; other sites are more well-known, though I would say all the sites are misunderstood and un-memorialized or inadequately memorialized. What happens if we stay in these spaces of trauma, violence, heterosexism, and white supremacy? What happens when we attempt to non-tell or anti-tell or un-tell stories of trauma and witness? How might we create rituals and procedures for collective processing of trauma?

The opening for this show was on Friday, June 21 from 6-8pm, and the show was open through August 18 at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main Street in Houston, Texas.

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As part of the Lawndale show, I also published an artist book—also called The Unsettlements: Dad—that was a vital part of the exhibition and now carries the work beyond the run of the show. The book was released on July 13, 2019 in the space of the exhibit during a performance and conversation with the citysinging curator Laura August.

The book is a translation of the work journal I kept over the 2018-2019 Artist Studio Program year at Lawndale: a scrapbook of thinking, notes from studio visits, and other materials. The Unsettlements: Dad is a book object hand-lettered in pencil that is a translation of the work journal I kept: a scrapbook of thinking, notes from studio visits, Youtube videos, fragments of conversations with my dad, Instagram posts, tweets, book covers, organic material, and more. The book builds a larger universe of fragments that existed in parallel to (and in the afterlife of) the object poems and videos in the citysinging exhibition space. The book is an invitation to an intimate encounter with making of the work and the narratives behind it.

Copies of the book are available for a limited time for $20 by emailing me at plujo7 at gmail dot com.