Unsettling the Old Country Buffet: M12 reports on the Rural

Richard Saxton
Margo Handwerker
Matthew Fluharty
mimi zeiger
Mary Welcome

Selected by Open Call
Organized by M12

We propose a report from the field: from the rural. Our report from the field will address projects rooted in M12’s work in Colorado over the past several years, but also reflects on a recent series of books and 7-inch records that we have released as an alternative way of addressing place-based issues. M12 will release a 5-book, 5-record collection in Jan. 2018 titled the Center Pivot Box Set. We would like to share experiences and insights on working in communities frequently neglected and even sometimes despised by cosmopolitan arts and activist communities. Many issues familiar to urban arts workers arise: communicating across divergent vocabularies, reference points, and politics; negotiating the roles of the arts in a wider community; finding funding and space to work. But, rural arts workers sometimes face particular challenges with regard to these issues, which our experiences and insights will address.

M12 recently lost the Feed Store, our studio/gathering/exhibition home of 5+ years in Byers, Colorado — an experience familiar to arts groups everywhere. In that time, we produced a series of 5 small, poetic field guide-style books and accompanying records that explore topics from our former base in Washington County and beyond (wild horses in New Mexico, small-town punks in South Dakota, rural post offices in Colorado). These documents are, of course, free to range far from a specific place and time. Over the same period, we also produced the site-specific sculpture Last Chance Module Array, which reflects on the permanence and impermanence of (un)settlement on the rural Plains; and continued to collaborate with the University of Colorado’s Art and Rural Environments Field School, bringing undergraduate and graduate students into rural and remote communities and landscapes. This year’s Common Field gathering coincides with an inflection point where M12 can reflect with kindred practitioners on artists’ community relationships, rootedness in place, and moving to the next place.