Leah Dyjak

United States

Beginning long before the pandemic and with increased intensity now, I have been thinking about the nuance of the meaning of a Force Majeure, the title of the body of work I will continue while in residence in Berlin. A Force Majeure — a superior force, is more traditionally known as a common clause for corporations to add to a contract. The clause protects parties from liability in the event of an act of God or negative global circumstances such as a global pandemic. These “events” include war, strike, riot, crime, hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, and run the gamut of catastrophic and unforeseeable happenstance. This concept and my creative research have informed my thinking about the possibilities of a post-nationalist future, the outcomes of failed borders, and once trusted infrastructure. I am interested in our collective lived experience and through my work examine how forces beyond our control, such as mass migration, climate change, and capitalism, limit human populations, and what is possible for the future.

A Force Majeure marks a shift in this twentieth-century model of ontology and asks us to think beyond our inherited environment through a new mode of perception, one no longer limited by four boundaries but instead which contains the potential to expand in all directions. The way landscape photography historically has been aestheticized often excludes conflict, contested histories, and social/ecological concerns. I use photography and art-making as a way to excavate the palimpsest of this shared history.

In this photographic and field research project, I look at the poetry of material systems failure by finding the overlooked human errors that collide with once-inconceivable series of events, to produce catastrophic outcomes such as levee breaches or instant erasure of borders. My photographs attempt to unveil the absurdity of our reliance on outdated technologies — sandbags, small-scale physical models, government policy — to provide a remedy for the current experience of environmental collapse. Through images and other research-driven artwork, I hope to apply a visuality to the Anthropocene.

The current and worsening environmental collapse has thrown into question things once familiar. The barriers that divide us are felled in a single instant. I use photography, video, and site-specific actions, and topography as a way to understand the history of the place while holding open other, unwritten futures of land use and stewardship. While in the field I am searching for the visual poetry and metaphor of failed infrastructure and how these “failures” speak to the futility of our desire to control the uncontrollable. My time while in residence will be spent photographing and conducting field research as I look at the vestiges and remnants of former borders and obsolete infrastructure in Berlin.

GlogauAIR Project
CV Summary