Katie Bachler lives and teaches in the desert of Arizona. An artist, educator, and gardener, her work explores our personal ideas of home and the different paths we all walk, both physically and metaphysically. For her residency with Fritz Haeg’s At Home in the City project this summer, she’s asking people to submit maps of daily activities and life practices for a collective map of Minneapolis that will constructed be throughout her stay with us.
In preparation of her arrival in Minneapolis this week I interviewed her about her project here.
Why are maps important to you?
Maps tell stories about places at specific moments, maps convey truths. They are tools for framing subjective experiences of internal and external places. Because the format of the map is familiar to people, they have the ability to convey unexpected information like scent memories or emotions because once someone knows they are looking at a map, there is an openness to receiving information. Maps change as people change. I love old maps of America that don’t have the West on them because it did not exist in the collective consciousness yet. Yet to be discovered!
What do you think maps tell us about people?
There is a human desire to document and make sense of the world around us through maps. A native American map from California is a circle with a dot in the middle and some random lines, because where they were was the center of the earth. We have maps in our minds too, and these maps show what we value. Places don’t exist until we map them.
How are maps and the idea of home integrated into your art practice?
People map what is important to them. I have made maps with tons of kids and adults and the kids always put their own houses and grandparents house, and the ice cream shop, and McDonalds, because that’s what matters to them. Adults will often put a special hike, or their garden, or bike route, or their friends houses. Maps allow a physical space for the mind to order what we value in the everyday. We are amalgams of all the places we have been and people we have met, and a map is a tool to make sense, in the snapshot of a moment, what matters to us.
I am deeply interested in the everyday and how to create connective spaces in cities and time. I feel that people are more likely to be engaged with a place if they are invited to participate in its creation. My work is based on facilitating experiences of place, whether that be through a community meal, a hand-drawn map, a dance, a sourdough library, or experiential hikes into LA wilderness. It is about being where we are, exploring the layers of a place.
What do you think makes a home?
People generally feel very connected to one or two aspects of their lives; perhaps they have a passion for baking bread or singing sea shanties or making quilts or fixing cars. These are all representations of home in some way, the situations where people feel the most themselves. We organize space, make a home, around activities we love. My 80-year-old friend in the desert, BC, has a quilting room with a bed in it. This is her home. Home is you projected into a corner, a favorite dapple of light in the morning, an onion skin, the placement of books and rocks on a shelf. Home is intention, a frame for the self to exist.
What is your connection to the desert?
I moved to the desert to understand the myth made real. The desert where I live, Joshua Tree, represents freedom, an escape from the routines and intersections that make up life in the city of Los Angeles. So the urbanite enters the desert realm with an expectation of an alternative experience, a pocket of time to be outside of the norm, to be replenished and able to re-tackle everyday life. I became interested in what makes people stay in the desert. What is daily life in the great Mojave? How do people make home there? How can I change by being outside of the map of LA in my mind? I am doing a Scout residency with High Desert Test Sites, where I interview locals about their home practices in the desert. People seem to move there to have the space to make their life intentions visible in a way that maybe isn’t as possible in the city.
What’s your experience working with Fritz?
I worked with Fritz Haeg as an intern for a few years. I showed up at his door one afternoon and asked if I could work for him. He lived in a geodesic dome, and met me in garden clogs along with two dogs. I felt at home, we had tea. I researched the history of the lawn and land use in the US, and helped tear up a front lawn in Lakewood, California as part of his first Edible Estates project. Fritz’s understanding of art was a real inspiration to me. Art engages with land and time! I also participated in the first Sundown Schoolhouse in 2006, which met for a 12-hour day once a week for three months. We did yoga, wrote manifestos, met with artists and activists, and cooked food that we ate in the garden.
How you can participate: This summer the Walker and Katie Bachler are mapping home stories in Minneapolis and we want you to submit a map!
Some questions to frame a map you might make: What are you doing to connect to where you are? How are you engaging with the landscape and food production? How do you create home in Minneapolis? What do you love here? Where do you feel connected to people?
Your map might include: the path of your backyard chickens, favorite places to walk, a drawing of a rock where you meditate, a photograph of your homemade bread, or a poem about the smell of moss on the river.
Your submission can take an untraditional format, like an audio recording or a poem. I will compile all of the submissions into a map to be distributed back to the community, and have an event where all of the submissions will be displayed, so everyone can see everyone else’s ideas about Minneapolis!
You can drop off your “map” at the Walker Art Lab and or email firstname.lastname@example.org.