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Lauren Strohacker
MCC Art Gallery, Mesa Community College, Mesa, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross


Lauren Strohacker, installation view, "Un-Fragmenting/Des-Fragmentando" (2017), two-channel video. Courtesy of MCC Art Gallery

Continuing through October 20, 2017

The U.S.-Mexico border fence is partly to blame for the near-extinction of a Southwestern species called the Northern Jaguar. It disrupts the animals' north-south migration, leading to a potential ecological tragedy. The situation piqued the interest of multimedia artist Lauren Strohacker, whose previous works have dealt with human-animal territorial conflict, biodiversity and displacement. Her yearlong collaboration with the Northern Jaguar Project has resulted in striking video projections with larger-than-life footage of jaguars in the wild, captured by well-placed motion-triggered cameras. The intimacy with the subjects — even in two-dimensional form — evokes empathy for the jaguars’ human-wrought predicament. They move majestically, their eyes intensifying into white beacons for night vision. Yet they are hamstrung by fences.

The exhibition, “Tension and Territory,” utilizes ceiling-high screens and minimal sound. One screen shows a circle-shaped, pristine night sky while stating that a jaguar’s spots are often likened to the stars. Nearby, a TV monitor plays a short, captioned video documenting the coordination that took place when, last May, Strohacker projected jaguar footage onto the iron slats of the border fence between Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Mexico. The surrounding communities turned out for the temporary nighttime installation, called “Un-Fragmenting/Des-Fragmentando,” which is reproduced here. It’s an apt title given how the slats essentially fragment the jaguars’ bodies, suggesting disappearance and loss of habitat. The binational project underscores Strohacker’s theme — the conundrum posed by barriers.


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