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Brown Chaca Canyon 1

Minding the Ground; Hearing the Wind: Chaco Canyon

March 14, 2019 — 


Listening to the Land

Brenda Brown’s solo exhibition, Minding the Ground; Hearing the Wind: Chaco Canyon, was on display at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico from October 21 to December 3, 2018. The exhibition reflects a continuing investigation into the reciprocal revelations of landscapes and sound, and the interplay of natural and cultural elements in landscape experience and interpretation. The recent exhibition resulted from Brown’s research residency at Chaco in April 2017, awarded through the National Parks Arts Foundation and supported by a University of Manitoba 2018 Creative Works grant. Brenda Brown is an Associate Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

Hearing the Wind

In many languages – perhaps most – wind entwines with air and breath, and, by extension, with speech, song, and the sounding of musical instruments such as the flute.  Often wind acts as creator or as messenger and/or their medium.  In old stories of people of the Four Corners, wind takes various forms, appearing as a vital foundational element and as powerful characters. Wind may be beneficent or malevolent.  There are greater and lesser winds.  There are whirlwinds.  There are words that describe winds of different natures, and in different circumstances.

From the video, Hearing the Wind: Chaco Canyon, by Brenda Brown, 2018.

The 35-minute video, Hearing the Wind: Chaco Canyon, is the exhibition’s centerpiece. It offers the most in depth and complex treatment of the landscape’s sonorous qualities. For Brown the most striking sounds at the site were those of the wind. Her recordings capture the wind’s sounds at different places in the park. As Brown discovered, the various topography, materials, plants, and ruins at each location shape wind’s sounds. At the same time, she documented these sites in photographs.  Because she was also interested in wind’s place in area cultures, after the residency Brown did further archival and field research in the Four Corners (the region where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet). Thus, the video and other exhibition works also included voices, languages and stories of the Four Corners region, for she sees these as shaping a larger landscape experience.

Minding the Ground

Twelve multi-media prints accompany the video. Some of these draw directly from the video’s imagery and ideas. Other prints are concerned with “minding the ground.” Via documentary photographs of existing conditions and proposed transformations these panels present whimsical yet feasible alternative interpretations of site elements to enliven visitors’ experience of the park.  They reflect Brown’s long-time interests in landscape interpretation, local materials and night-time landscape experience.

More on this exhibition, including excerpts from the video, can be found at this link:



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