The Fieldwork: Marfa research program is based on the idea that the residents develop their own research projects in relation to academic programs and curriculum of the two art schools involved. These schools have chosen to build this program in Marfa because its location and context offer a very wide range of research opportunities. Residents are selected on the basis of a research project in direct relationship with the context, through all its material, historical, epistemological, as well as political dimensions.
Minimalism and Beyond
The collections of both foundations in Marfa are incredibly rich. Marfa offers one of the largest body of works by Donald Judd in the world. Much of the art was designed specifically for the various sites where it is found today, including the 100 untitled works in mill aluminum, 1982-1986, which found their permanent homes in the Chinati Foundation's two hangars, and the 15 untitled works in concrete, 1980-1984, installed in the Foundation's park. The Chinati Foundation also showcases large ensembles of works and installations by Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, Carl Andre, Roni Horn and Ilya Kabakov.The various collections serve as research material for the residents of the FIELDWORK: MARFA program.
Art in Public Sphere
Judd is the town's livelihood. By installing his works and those of fellow artists in various areas throughout Marfa, he has altered the social, economic and political structure of a small, forgotten Texas town. In addition to the Chinati and Judd foundations, Marfa has since become home to a globally known art center (Ballroom Marfa), a professional theater (Marfa's Goode Crowley Theater), several art galleries and creative residencies.
The use and value of artistic presence in public areas constitute a potential field of investigation for Fieldwork: Marfa residents.
The Altered Landscape
Judd decided to move to Marfa in part because of its remarkable landscapes. His fascination with the land and the merging of his work with the surrounding environment are in line with a long-standing tradition, which has governed America's aesthetic design of landscapes since the last quarter of the 19th century, from pioneer photographers to land artists and utopian architectural experiments. The landscape home to Fieldwork: Marfa exemplifies America Deserta, an aesthetic experience of the American Southwest desert defined in 1989 by British sociologist Reyner Banham. Human’s activities and long-standing presence in the region have drastically changed the biological, urban and geological landscape of West Texas. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was one of the first and worst ecological crisis ever experienced in the US. Human overexploitation of the soil and climate change in this arid, hostile and fragile environment led to the creation of various conservation strategies. This Man-altered Landscape, largely perceived by Americans as the collapse of a once romantic vision of their land, provides an exceptional epistemological, iconographical and geopolitical framework for artistic investigation and research proposals.
Borders and Zones of Conflicts
Over and beyond its unique artistic value, Marfa's geographic environment is also fraught with pain and violence. The town is located a hundred kilometers north of the Rio Grande, the river separating Texas from Mexico. This natural border is frequently crossed by illegal immigrants from Mexico. Dozens die in the attempted crossing every year, whether swept by the waters, executed by coyotes with ties to drug cartels or preyed upon by American far-right militias. Articulating this unique social and political background is another potential research topic for the residents.