Nicholas Galanin: In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra May 16, 2023–March 10, 2024 Brooklyn Bridge Park, Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn May 15, 2023, NEW YORK, NY—
Public Art Fund debuts In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra, a monumental corten steel sculpture by artist Nicholas Galanin. The artist’s first public artwork in New York City, this new 30-foot tall sculpture combines references to the U.S.-Mexico border wall and Pop Art, serving as a point of focus to consider the legacy of colonization and its impact on migration and our relationships with Land across generations, cultures, and communities.
In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra questions the concept of border walls, which are designed to cut across land and water, restricting access to the migratory routes necessary for various life forms. The sculpture is constructed using the identical material and scale of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, deploying materials that may otherwise have been destined for the construction of the wall. Spelling out the word “LAND” as a multiplied and dynamic sculptural form, Galanin’s work defeats the function of the wall as a barrier to entry, focusing instead on the Indigenous connection with Land and mutual sustainability that transcends borders.
Nicholas Galanin: In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra is on view from May 16, 2023 through May 10, 2024 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. “Indigenous care for Land and community is rooted in connection based on mutual sustainability. Rather than nationalism or capital, this perspective always embodies a deep respect for life beyond any single generation. In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra questions barriers to Land, which directly reflect barriers to love, love for Land, community, and future generations,” said artist Nicholas Galanin. “Nicholas Galanin has developed one of the most distinctive and powerful bodies of work in contemporary North American art,” said Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund Artistic & Executive Director. “It is profoundly shaped not only by his Lingít-Unangax̂ heritage, knowledge, and practice, but also by his facility with the forms and concepts of international contemporary art. This Public Art Fund commission, his first public project for New York City, promises to be a major cultural event.”
Based in Sitka, Alaska, Galanin works from his experience as a Tlingít and Unangax̂ artist, centering Indigeneity in his practice through concept, form, image, and sound. Through a multidisciplinary practice, which includes sculpture, installation, film, and performance, Galanin reclaims creative agency in historical and social narratives, demonstrating contemporary Indigenous art and culture as continuously evolving and embedding his work with incisive observation and reflection.
In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra builds on the artist’s practice of creating resonant and critically layered artworks that expand and refocus themes of culture and contemporary social conditions beyond temporal bounds and binary classifications. Resisting categorization, In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra simultaneously references the U.S. border wall, mass marketing, as well as an Indigenous conception of fluid communities and interconnected Land. In contrast to the divisiveness, exclusion, and violence represented by the border wall, these 30-foot tall layered steel walls spell out the word “LAND,” a call for care and reflection on the geographies we traverse. Galanin draws the form and font of the sculpture from recognizable Pop Art imagery to implicate mass media and pop culture in the dissemination of nationalism. With a title that includes both English and Spanish, two languages imposed by colonial regimes on either side of the border, Galanin’s work calls into question non-Indigenous approaches to ownership and national borders.
Through language, form, and material, Galanin imbues the work with layers of criticality for how the notions of division and Land ownership are upheld, calling attention to the consequences of enforced exclusion that divides peoples and Land for extractive purposes. Alternating between abstraction and definition, our perception of the sculpture is transformed as we experience it from different vantage points. Viewed head on, the work clearly reads “LAND,” but as a viewer moves through and around the work, its form shifts and the dynamic and abstracted nature of the sculpture becomes apparent. The work’s mutability illuminates the lack of borders and division in Galanin’s Indigenous view of a united natural ecosystem and way of life, embracing peaceful movement from one place to another.
At a time of growing divisions across barriers and borders, In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra questions the reduction and enforced limitation on relationships with Land. Through multifaceted art historical and political references, Galanin transforms what he sees as the oppressive and violent structure of a border wall into a sculpture rooted in connection to Land, centered on mutual care and an embodiment of respect for life beyond any single generation or species.
Nicholas Galanin: In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra is curated by Public Art Fund Artistic & Executive Director Nicholas Baume with support from Assistant Curator Jenée-Daria Strand.