In Evans’ Camping at Home, a constant sweeping diagonal pan follows the insect-like construction cranes that hang in the sky like scorpion tails and earth moving excavators that carve deep gradations into the soil. Evans peels back a deeply complicated allegorical portrait of a post-bust economy in the United States, and globally, as the housing market crisis carries on. Homeowners continue to fight foreclosures while complicated regularity hearings surrounding predatory home lending practices, and the LIBOR interest rates scandals uncover systemic corruption that has shaken the grip on our most basic human needs. Housing construction sites rapidly sprawl and swallow pastoral hillsides, the occasional cluster of tent camps punctuating the growing divide in economic disparity. In 2012 the tent became deeply politicized as an important activist symbol during Occupy Wall Street’s activities, complicating the otherwise architectural form of vacation and leisure. Impossibly long military convoys and 50’s era family sedans towing campers crisscross windy road panoramas that tie together the multiplicity of motifs that rest in between stability and instability.
Camping at Home #1 is a nearly three-minute silent video pulled from gobs of still images appropriated from the Internet. Some of them are animated. For instance, a tank, which is transformed into a 30-wheeled steel millipede, rolls past the camera, which then pulls back through a nylon tent city and Coleman camper lamps. A construction worker is busy fixing something. The camera pulls back further through a maze of pipes and fences. It swings right and we see a city under construction. Multiarmed cranes are busy at
work. In the spaces between framed walls and water pipes, we see men plying their trade and cars passing through. The camera moves underground, pulls out the other side, and reveals more cranes at work, a classic car pulling a classic camper trailer, an excavated landscape being mined in the background, and we’re back in the tent city long enough to pause on a family of refugees, before the millipede tank rumbles past once more.Broken down as a linear sequence of images and objects, the work seems incomprehensible, and unquestionably surreal. So: What does it all mean?We carve the land. We build on the land. Once it’s built and populated, we urbanites sometimes escape to the countryside for a night of camping. Evans’ refugees remind us there are people out there who really are roughing it. They’ve been displaced, perhaps by machines of war. When we invade, we sometimes eventually occupy. We might strip the land of its natural resources, and maybe build a new city on top of the city we just knocked down. Sometimes we send relief aide to construct homes, shelters, and schools. Infrastructure makes a land habitable by domesticating it—until the inhabitants once again want to escape. In Evans’ work, the relationships between tents for recreation and tents for refuge become clearer, as do the links between tanks and front-end loaders, and between a man in a hard forming concrete and a man in military fatigues building a wall. Though the visual play between discordant elements is disorienting, if we pay attention long enough, and allow the camera to pull back far enough, we can start to see how it all ties together.