A.I.R. Gallery is pleased to announce Invasive Species: Of Natives and Strangers, a solo exhibition by Sandra Erbacher. Employing an interdisciplinary, research-centered approach, Erbacher seeks to compare and contrast the discourse on invasive species in the natural sciences with the media rhetoric surrounding immigration.
Invasive Species brings together a wealth of historical and contemporary images, text, and ephemera to explore how fears surrounding foreign flora and fauna echo anxieties about immigration and disease and the rise of xenophobia. Materials are sourced from the archives of the New York Public Library Pictures Collection, The Eugenic Record Office at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, and scientific books, journals, and newspaper archives. As part of this research, Erbacher delves into the role eugenics played in shaping nineteenth and early twentieth-century policies on immigration and how these ideologies continue to influence contemporary public perception and discourse surrounding immigration.
The resulting installation of photographs, video, and sculpture seems at first glance to employ traditional archival modes of representation. However, a closer look reveals that the spatial hierarchies of display have been turned upside down: a deconstructed archival table rises vertically from the centre of the gallery, and a small video is projected into one of its storage compartments, asking viewers to crouch down to actively engage with the work.
By disrupting visual conventions, Invasive Species intends to challenge dominant narratives and provoke critical engagement with issues related to immigration, invasive species, photography, and colonialism. It deconstructs the use of photography as a tool of documentation and truth-making, and the archive as a repository of dominant histories, while highlighting the socio-political factors that have led to the binary view of nature and culture as being in and out of place, native and non-native. By shedding light on the historical roots of immigration discourses, Erbacher aims to deepen our understanding of the social constructions of "invasion," and foster critical dialogue on the enduring impact of these ideologies.
Invasive Species is funded through a faculty development grant by the Pratt Institute. Research was supported by a travel stipend awarded by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Library and Archives.