Erin Johnson’s Lake gazes down at a still body of water from a birds-eye view while a group of artists peacefully float in and out of the frame or work to stay at the surface. As the swimmers glide farther away and draw closer together, they reach out in what the artist describes as “collective queer and desirous exchanges” — holding hands, drifting over and under their neighbors, making space, taking care of each other with a casual, gentle intimacy while they come together as individual parts of a whole.
The video reflects on notions of togetherness and feminist theorist Silvia Federici’s call to “reconnect what capitalism has divided: our relation with nature, with others, and our bodies.”
Johnson made this work while in residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Johnson became interested in how groups of people, in this case artists, live in relation to — and support — each other. The gestures and movements in the video reflect the interpersonal and group dynamics present in this kind of collectivity: each person’s movements impact the others as they try to remain close while giving each other space, attempt to stay in the frame, and hold each other up when sinking. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this video has taken on new, additional meanings: the suspension of time, the feeling of being adrift in space, and the importance of intimacy and proximity.
Erin Johnson (b. 1985, Tucson, Arizona) received an MFA from UC Berkeley in 2013. Johnson has had solo exhibitions at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, Maine (2020); Iris Project, Los Angeles (2020), the Jepson Center, Telfair Museums, Savannah, Georgia (2018), Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, El Paso, Texas (2018), Power Plant Gallery, Duke University, Durham, NC (2017). Johnson attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2019 and is currently a resident artist at Pioneer Works. She will be in-residence at the Jan van Eyck Academie in the Netherlands and the Ankara Queer Art Program in Turkey later this year. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Pioneer Works is a cultural center dedicated to experimentation, education, and production across disciplines. Through a broad range of educational programs, performances, residencies, and exhibitions, Pioneer Works transcends disciplinary boundaries to foster a community where alternative modes of thought are activated and supported. We strive to make culture accessible to all.