Catherine Pancake’s complicity in Bloodland

Midway through Catherine Pancake’s video on citizen surveillance of the natural-gas fracking industry, Bloodland (all works cited, 2015), a female voice-over quotes Hito Steyerl’s 2009 essay “In Defense of the Poor Image,” on the cultural implications of highly circulated, low-resolution digital artifacts online: “The imperfect cinema is one that strives to overcome the divisions of labor within class society. It merges art with life and science, blurring the distinction between consumer and producer, audience and author.” This idea informs Pancake’s own self-critical, essayistic methodology, as manifested in the filmmaker’s first exhibition to constellate video projection, handmade objects, archival documents, and still photography. Bloodland collages YouTube-sourced clips of East Coast fracking sites and excerpts of Pennsylvania-based antifracking activist Vera Scroggins’s protests with shots of dying wildlife and Pancake’s recordings of woodland dance performances. Through screen captures of multi-tabbed web browsing and Pro Tools video editing, the footage is manipulated within the frame of what is presumably the artist’s computer screen, displayed throughout the video. This reflects the ways in which all Internet users scan, consume, and create narratives both on- and off-screen. Opposite the projection of Bloodland, an imposing floor-to-ceiling grid of ninety-five court transcript pages documents a corporation’s legal case against Scroggins. In lieu of a wall text, this is an assertive act of transparency.At the gallery’s rear is Each one a case, composed of four white pillowcases for children’s beds, neatly folded on roughshod shelves like miniature shrouds and digitally printed with images of Pancake’s family’s West Virginia acreage, ruined after timber clear-cutting. One print includes the artist’s brother, an industry-employed geologist, creating a narrative that suggests Pancake’s own complicity in this contested environmental issue.