In, If Not Always Of
Pato Hebert is an artist, educator and organizer. His work explores the aesthetics, ethics and poetics of interconnectedness. His projects have been presented at Beton7 in Athens, PH21 Gallery in Budapest, the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo in Quito, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, the Songzhuang International Photo Biennale, IHLIA LGBT Heritage in Amsterdam and the New Image Gallery at James Madison University. He has been a BAU Institute/Camargo Foundation Residency Fellow in Cassis, France and an artist-in-residence at PLAYA, and with the Neighborhood Time Exchange project in West Philadelphia. Hebert’s work has been supported by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Creative Work Fund, the National Education Association and a Mid- Career Fellowship for Visual Artists from the California Community Foundation. In 2008, he received the Excellence in Photographic Teaching Award from Center in Santa Fe. He teaches as an Associate Arts Professor in the Department of Art & Public Policy at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, where his students have twice nominated him for the David Payne-Carter Excellence in Teaching Award. He has also worked in community-based HIV prevention initiatives with queer communities of color since 1994. He continues these grassroots efforts at local and transnational levels, working with social movements and community organizations to develop innovative approaches to HIV mobilization, programs, advocacy and justice. He curated exhibitions and led creative initiatives at the International AIDS Conferences in Vienna (2010), Melbourne (2014), Durban (2016) and Amsterdam (2018).
In, If Not Always Of features an ambiguous presence that I call “The Oscillator” appearing in various landscapes. The Oscillator seems to reflect its context, yet is not so easily of its environment. It queries our relationship to place and space, and our false oppositions between nature and culture. These distinctions are a dangerous part of our ecological challenge as so many life forms are being dramatically impacted by climate change. Humans cannot simply see ourselves as exceptional and apart, nor view land as an object or thing. Such thinking leads to dangerous oppositions of either exploitation or preservation, rather than more supple understandings of living in rich and complex symbiosis.
I have been exploring these ideas through the making of conceptual photographs that aim to accentuate our dilemma. Since 2014 I have orchestrated a series of performances for the camera. I have presenced The Oscillator in parks and nature reserves, areas that have historically been demarcated as “nature” by the state in order to safeguard against unfettered development. But The Oscillator is neither human nor natural. Its strange yet poetic presence oscillates between absurdity, alienation, mimicry and belonging.
Sometimes The Oscillator mirrors its surrounding context. But it can also be encompassed, even configured by its environment. It is neither wholly autonomous nor completely integrated. It is at turns uneasy, assertive, playful, overwhelmed, enraptured, even indecipherable. The Oscillator serves to remind us that as humans in these amazing places, we must live in a manner that does not simply make us aliens in the very environments that we are a part of.