In A Bearing Tree is a Witness, artist Elizabeth M. Webb examines the plat maps and field notes from the original land surveys of her family’s former plantation land in eastern Alabama. The film and sculptural installation positions land surveys, surveying instruments, and plat maps as tools of a Western colonial agenda that helped establish and maintain the power dynamics of white supremacy. Evolving from this conceptual foundation, A Bearing Tree is a Witness thinks through the ways that plant life can provide liberatory models for how our bodies might also subvert these structures of power and control.
For more information read Defiances Below and Above Ground, an essay by Olivia Michiko Gagnon and listen to Elizabeth M. Webb and Curator Lillian O’Brien Davis discuss racial and geographic boundaries and the use of archival surveying instruments within her artistic practice on G44 Digital.
Artwork for the exhibition was produced with the support of the Art Gallery of Burlington.
Elizabeth M. Webb is an artist and filmmaker originally from Charlottesville, VA. Her work is invested in issues surrounding race and identity, often using the lens of her own family history of migration and racial passing to explore larger, systemic constructs. She has screened and exhibited in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Ecuador, Singapore, Switzerland, Mexico, Spain, Austria, Norway and Germany and was a recipient of the inaugural Allan Sekula Social Documentary Award in 2014. Elizabeth holds a dual MFA in Film/Video and Photography/Media from California Institute of the Arts and is an alumna of the Whitney Independent Study Program in Studio Art, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. She was Fall 2019 Visiting Faculty in Sculpture and Extended Media at Virginia Commonwealth University. Since 2015 she has been the Creative Producer for Arts in a Changing America and in 2020 worked on the launch of the Cultural New Deal for Cultural and Racial Justice. She is currently co-editing an anthology with Roberta Uno and Daniela Alvarez entitled FUTURE/PRESENT: Culture in a Changing America (Duke University Press, 2023).