Jeff Whetstone’s second exhibition with the gallery explores the nexus of language and wilderness through narrative video, 16mm film, digital animation and photography. Hunters transcend gender, men draw with snakes, and a landscape is made from sound-waves.
The exhibition is introduced by three still photographic images, which provide a sense of the environment and state of mind of the hunt. Joseph portrays a rifle range in where countless rounds of bullets not only mark targets, but also the territory of a contested wilderness.
The first moving work is Drawing E. obsoleta, a continuously looped 16mm film piece named for the species of snake that Whetstone attempts to manipulate into the form of a landscape. The snake determinedly resists the drawing and is continually corralled back into its container. The film continually threading through a maze of arcane analog mechanics mimic the snake in it’s predicament.
Albemarle Sound is a landform in the coastal south and the title of the second moving work. Albemarle Sound is essentially an audio piece that documents the sound of two hunters luring and shooting a duck. This 2 minute vignette is visualized by a waveform graph. A waveform is a picture of sound, and in this piece it describes the landscape of the coastal plain hunting grounds and conflates it with the narratives that take place there.
The final work in the exhibition is the 14 minute video, On the Use of a Syrinx. Based on the narrative strategies of Hitchcock films and cinema verité , the video portrays a hunter seducing a male bird into shooting range by imitating female mating calls. Attached to the hunter is a small microphone that records him translating the mating calls into English, blurring the lines between species, gender, fantasy and violence.
Language and wilderness, both implied and portrayed, form the basis of the exhibition. A plywood panel etched by bullets, a cursive line made by an animal, and computer made graphic depiction of bird sounds script the symbolic marks of a manipulated wilderness. Gunshots, mating calls, the voices of men, and the drone of the projector intertwine narratives of instinct - sex, violence, sport and spectacle –offering the possibility of a wilderness that include us.
Whetstone received an MFA from Yale in 2001 and is a tenured professor of art at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He has received many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. His work is featured in numerous public collections.