Is there "a secret harmony between the earth and humanity" that we ignore at our peril? The 19th-century French geographer, anarchist and animal rights activist Elisee Reclus thought so, and during his two-year sojourn in Louisiana, starting in 1853, he was shocked by the rampant way our wilderness areas were plundered for their resources. He believed, "Whatever we do to nature, we inevitably do to ourselves," a pronouncement revealed as prophecy by the way our industry-ravaged wetlands are losing their capacity to protect us from hurricanes. Although his presence here is most obvious in a reliquary exhibit (detail, pictured) including books, publications and even a bottle of wine from his family vineyard, his views often underlie works by Bosnian and Croatian artists in this show organized by Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Zagreb, Croatia, and New Orleans-based artist/curator Lala Rascic.
Into the Dusk Charged Air, Rascic's reverse painting on glass, depicts all of the rivers cited by John Ashbery in his poem of the same name as a meandering maze of lines — a tangle of tides appearing as a kind of geographical Gordian knot. Rivers often are used as markers of borders in regions throbbing with the competing claims of rival national cultures, and here Croatian artist Lana Cmajcanin's Geometry of Time depicts a vintage map of Europe with every change of national boundaries recorded in a vortex of overlapping lines that collectively all but obscure the Balkan region. The old European conundrum of nature and nationalism is explored by the Croatian collective Fokus Grupa, whose video ironically intimates how even serene national park scenes can conceal underlying tensions. This returns us to the realm of Reclus, and on March 7 at 6 p.m., his translator, John Clark, presents a lecture, "Elisee Reclus & the Apocalyptic Social Geography of New Orleans," followed on March 8 at 4 p.m. by an artist talk, "Abstraction and Landscape," featuring Jessica Bizer and Brian Guidry.