PLAND (Practice Liberating Art through Necessary Dislocation) is the third in a series of Site/Project Profiles that present off-grid, hyper-isolated residencies. In 2011, PLAND will launch The Summer of Alternative Power, a season comprised of three major programs: Residency II, Power School, and Home Work. “Part alternative school, part laboratory, part homestead, part art studio,” these programs will overlap with a series of work parties and workshops that propose alternative models to the mainstream systems of power, such as electricity, water, currency and production. Residency applications are closed for this year, but the Power School application deadline has been extended to April 25th. Home Work inquires are taken at anytime.

(Practice Liberating Art through Necessary Dislocation)

Address: 423 State Road 150, El Prado, NM 87529
Contacts: Erin Elder, Nina Elder, Nancy Zastudil
Phone: n/a
Open Hours: seasonal
How is the project operated? For-profit, nonprofit, artist-run, etc.
PLAND functions on a very low budget. We received a small grant from the Idea Fund in 2010, and now have fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas. Although this allows us to function as a non-profit, we also embrace non-traditional economies such as trade and barter.

How long has it been in existence?
Since July of 2009.

What was your motivation?
PLAND finds its inspiration in a legacy of pioneers, entrepreneurs, homesteaders, artists and other counterculturalists who – through both radical and mundane activities – reclaim and reframe a land-based notion of the American Dream. While producing open-ended experimental projects that facilitate collaboration and hyper-local engagement, PLAND is a constantly evolving artists outpost in the New Mexican high desert. PLAND illuminates that eggs come from chickens, the sun produces energy, that poverty is not necessarily a prison and that life can be rich beyond the grid. We aim to positively invigorate the stereotype of rural America, to embrace the legacy of do-it-yourself motivators and to remember that past generations might hold the solution to future problems. We hope to inspire people to live life creatively and then act as stewards to their creation.

Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.

How are programs funded? (i.e. membership fees, public funding, sponsors)
Grants, application fees, and donations.

Who is responsible for the programming? (Curators, Directors, etc.)
3 co-founders.

Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
PLAND functions seasonally from May-October.

What kind of events are usually organized?
In 2010, PLAND hosted five inaugural residents and began construction of a post-and-beam structure solely through the use of hand tools with materials acquired through barter, work trade, donations and seed money from a small arts grant. In 2011, PLAND will launch The Summer of Alternative Power, a season comprised of three major programs: Residency II, Power School, and Home Work. The programs will overlap with a series of work parties and workshops that propose alternative models to the mainstream systems of power, i.e. electricity, water, currency and production. Under the banner theme of Alternative Power participants will share time, space and resources to realize their individual goals, art works, research, and projects, as well as collaborate with PLAND and an extended community of visionary thinkers and doers.

How is your programming determined?
At PLAND, there is symbiosis between daily life and the programs we design.  When we needed to better understand dish washing with very little water, we designed a public workshop about water use and dish washing in particular.  When we wanted to learn how to make adobe, we worked with students to create brick form prototypes and many hundreds of bricks.  Now that we need to build a house, we’ll create programs on water catchment, simple framing, straw bale construction and more.
Because we privilege process over product and we take pride in fueling experimentation, programs can have a spontaneous nature. They are often initiated by residents and student groups.  While necessity plays a role in what we do, we’re also very open to trying new things, to handing over the reins; we’re even open to failure.

Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes. For 2011, our call for residents claims ” Priority will be given to artists who propose testing and implementing alternative sustainable systems or augmentation to the Main House – i.e., a grey water system, a bicycle-powered radio station, a local food-sharing system, an off-grid hot tub or otherwise.”

What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
As co-founders of PLAND, we make experiences. By hosting residents and students (and even ourselves) in an off-the-grid, ever-evolving, totally unusual place, we expose people to new ways of living. As we cooperatively run PLAND, we learn as we go.  This learning by doing approach is central to the larger mission of PLAND.  As curators and artists, we are mindful of materials, process, audience, context, collaboration and participation, as we make opportunities for creatively addressing alternative living.

What’s working? What’s not working?
Teamwork makes the dream work. Because we see PLAND as an active merging of art and life (there are very few boundaries between the way we live and the organization that we’re building), we have to make it work for each of us. It’s a constant negotiation of time, money, interest, passion, pressure, and although we do not have prescribed roles, per se, we each excel at and contribute different perspectives to the project. By starting our own organization according to our own values, we are reclaiming the rites to production. We don’t work for anyone else and we believe that PLAND is successful because it is authentic in its vision and its manifestation. This level of authenticity seems directly related to the task of self-organizing.
Many of the challenges we face are inherent in the site we chose. We are attempting to introduce a non-traditional art discourse to Northern New Mexico, a region that is famous for paintings of sunsets and sculptures of coyotes. Tres Piedras is a paradise for loners and anarchists, so creating a community around trust and collaboration is an interesting process. The work of building bridges is provocative – between the global art scene and our little outpost, the urban and the rural, as well as traditional methods and new technologies – but it is these challenges that inspire us to continue.

What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
PLAND is located near Tres Piedras, NM. Once a boomtown, Tres Piedras is now home to approximately 200 residents who live primarily off the grid and in poverty. The town does not have an accurate US Census count and is void of amenities – no food or fuel for 30 miles. This context of isolation makes for provocative and self- sufficient daily existence and requires intimate relationships to the land and to neighbors. Part alternative school, part laboratory, part homestead, part art studio, PLAND captures and shares the knowledge of local craftspeople and homesteaders through work parties and collaborations with visiting students and residents. This knowledge capture is beneficial in its transmission to a broader audience, but also as an act of witness and validation of an otherwise under-appreciated population.
While work parties are the most culturally sensitive and physically productive way to engage the Tres Piedras community, PLAND also hosts cook-outs and public talks that introduce visiting residents, students and artists to any interested neighbors. This cross-pollination is important for our long-term relationship to the community and for visitors to gain a full experience of PLAND’s unique locale.

What idea are you most excited about for the future?
We are thrilled to launch our programming for 2011. In addition to residencies, we are adding formalized work parties and Power School. Adding an education component fulfills what we set out to do when we founded PLAND. Power School will be an intensive 10 day seminar for adult students investigating the concept of Alternative Power. Students will engage in a series of field trips, discussions, presentations, and hands-on projects that actively rethink systems of power, such as the power grid, political power, economic power, etc. Power School participants will convene in Albuquerque, tour the state’s coal mines, nuclear laboratories, power plants, water diversion projects, and more. Through a co-teaching approach, students will bring their own interests and resources to share with the class which will be augmented by visits with a variety of experts. Using PLAND as a home base and an opportunity to experience off-the-grid living first-hand, Power School is an active rethinking of power: How does it work? Where does it come from? What are the alternatives to systems of power? How can we make things better?

Images courtesy of PLAND.

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