Chele Isaac and BA Harrington's collaborative, multimedia installation work explores themes of dislocation, migration, and the way nostalgia distorts and narrows the idea of "American-ness." For their latest project, they took a strategic, meandering road trip from Madison to San Diego in early 2011, following historic migration routes like the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and Highway 66. The westward road trip has become a popular culture cliché, a quintessentially American approach to examining one’s circumstances and starting anew. In taking this trip, Harrington and Isaac set out to grapple with their own mental image of the heroic, hyper-masculine American West.
Guided by an inquiry into how nostalgia influences our identification as Americans, they visited a dizzying array of historic markers, small history museums, alternative communities, truck stops and border patrol check points. The work in this show represents an attempt to make manifest the encounter with landscapes traveled, people encountered and stories unspooled. Their installation at the James Watrous Gallery will use video projections, sound and large-scale sculpture to create a deeply allusive hybrid installation of vignettes reminiscent of museum dioramas.