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On our final day of posts for Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South, we feature a selection of the co-curators Mark Sloan and Mark Long’s essay on emplacing the new south. I think that there is no better text to summarize the exploration of Southern identity and culture that we’ve featured throughout the week, so without further adieu…

Emplacing the New South- Mark Sloan and Mark Long

Each component of this project’s title—Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South—lends itself to scrutiny. Southbound refers to the twin ideas of heading south and the lingering effects of charged stereotypes that limit our ability to see the region clearly. Photographs refers to documentary and fine art images but, in this case, does not include constructed or fabricated photographs. New and, particularly, South are perhaps the most slippery elements of the title. South because, like all regions, it is necessarily a function of how we define the parameters—climatological, historical, cultural, and so on. New for the many instances that adjective has qualified developments in the South, often purportedly definitive in terms of change, and always to create distance from lesser and sometimes unsavory moments in the region’s history. Indeed, we considered calling the exhibition New South2, then cubed, and might have settled on New Southn, if it weren’t too cryptic to be clever.

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In addition to an amazing curation of Southern photography and writing, Southbound also features an incredible interactive map depicting concentrations of everything from African Americans to chickens, confederate symbols to field crops, as well as an “Index of Southernness”. This index was created by fusing the other maps presented, showcasing “classic regional geographic patterns of core, domain, and sphere, where places that read as most Southern are readily identifiable.” According to the curators, “In representing places where southerness is most intense, the Index reveals the resilience of the region. By also showing how southerness transitions across space, the map weaves a rich regional tapestry.”

The maps were created by Dr. Rick Bunch at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, using publicly available datasets from the United States Census Bureau, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the United States Agricultural Census, among other sources.

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Yaakov Israel wants us all to take a considered look around us. As a photographer, that should be a given for him. Then again, even he found himself not really noticing what was clearly in his unimpeded visual line of fire.

In fact, a nasty predicament was the catalyst for forcing Israel into taking a good long hard look at his surroundings, at places he had not previously consciously observed. It was in 2002, a year or so into the Second Intifada, when Israel’s car broke down on Highway 443. With Palestinian villages only a few hundred meters away, anyone driving along the road just kept going. For two long hours, Israel waited by the roadside with his stricken vehicle.

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We are continuing our feature of images and text from Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South today, with an essay by author, editor, and southern food aficionado John T. Edge.

John T. Edge writes about the American South. The Penguin Press published his latest book, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern Southnamed a best book of 2017 by NPRPublisher‘s Weekly, and a host of others. Now in paperback, Nashville selected the book as a citywide read for 2018. He is also writer and host for the television show TrueSouth, which airs on the SECNetwork.

Edge is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun and a columnist for the Oxford American. For three years he wrote the monthly “United Taste” column for the New York Times. His magazine and newspaper work has been featured in eleven editions of the Best Food Writing compilation. He has won three James Beard Foundation awards. In 2012, he won Beard’s M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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For the fourth day of our weeklong feature of images and text from Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South, the photographs are accompanied by an essay by historian, author, film-maker, and all around expert on the South, William Ferris.

William R. Ferris is a professor of history at UNC–Chapel Hill and an adjunct professor in the Curriculum in Folklore. He is associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South, and is widely recognized as a leader in Southern studies, African-American music and folklore. He is the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Prior to his role at NEH, Ferris served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he was a faculty member for 18 years.

Ferris has written and edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films, most of which deal with African-American music and other folklore representing the Mississippi Delta. He co-edited the Pulitzer Prize nominee Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (UNC Press, 1989), which contains entries on every aspect of Southern culture and is widely recognized as a major reference work linking popular, folk, and academic cultures.

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On the third day of our weeklong feature of Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South, the images are accompanied by an essay authored by Eleanor Heartney. Eleanor is a contributing Editor to Art in America and Artpress and has written extensively on contemporary art issues for such other publications as ArtnewsArt and AuctionThe New Art Examinerthe Washington Post and The New York Times. She received the College Art Association’s Frank Jewett Mather Award for distinction in art criticism in 1992. Her books include: Critical Condition: American Culture at the Crossroads (Cambridge University Press, 1997); Postmodernism (Cambridge University Press, 2001); Postmodern Heretics: The Catholic Imagination in Contemporary Art (Midmarch Arts Press, 2004); Defending Complexity: Art, Politics and the New World Order (Hard Press Editions, 2006) and Art and Today (Phaidon Press Inc., 2008), a survey of contemporary art of the last 25 years from Phaidon. She is a co-author of After the Revolution: Women who Transformed Contemporary Art(Prestel Publishing, 2007), which won the Susan Koppelman Award. Heartney is a past President of AICA-USA, the American section of the International Art Critics Association. In 2008 she was honored by the French government as a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

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Nikky Finney is a renowned poet and educator originally from South Carolina who “involves herself in the day-to-day battles for truth and justice” while also guiding MFA students in her capacity as Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina, among other appointments at the university.

She was commissioned to respond to the images from the Southbound project with poetry, and was allowed to view each image in the collection without any names, titles, or other identifying information. The curators “felt there was value in allowing the poet to view the narrative potential contained within each image as an image, even if slippage between Finney’s poetic musings and the actual facts of a photographs making might result.”

In the end, she selected four, but as stated to the curators, she could have written a story about every one of these photographs had she had the time, and was, in her words, struck like lightning by most every frame.

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It is such a pleasure to introduce Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South. Over the next week, we will feature selections of images from each of the 56 artists included in the project, as well as accompanying essays, maps, and videos. This expansive, comprehensive, multimedia investigation into what it means to be of, from, by the American South in the first decades of the twenty-first century was co-curated by Mark Sloan director and chief curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, and Mark Long, professor of political science, both of whom are on the faculty of the College of Charleston, in South Carolina.

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Former Midlander brings history to life in photos

Sat Mar 02, 2019
Midland Daily News

Native Midlander Jeanine Michna-Bales is giving people a new look at American history. A selection from her “Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad” is featured in a national touring exhibit, “Southbound: Photographs of and about the new South.”

Michna-Bales was born in Midland, but was raised in the Midwest, spending time between Indiana and Florida with her parents. When she was working at an ad agency in San Francisco in 2002, she started conducting research on the Underground Railroad. Michna-Bales found herself writing three to four pages of notes every day.

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Adjunct art instructor Rachel Boillot was recently chosen as one of the 56 artists included in The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston’s project “Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South.”

Southbound is the largest exhibition ever produced of photographers capturing the American South in the twenty-first century. The exhibition presents multiple ways of visualizing the region.

After its debut in Charleston, “Southbound” will travel nationally, including stops in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Meridian, Mississippi; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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