Blind River

by Alex Turner

Seasonal rainfall carves washes through the borderlands of the Sonoran Desert. Rains end and water evaporates, yet these channels occupy strata both visible and invisible. Currents often rearrange themselves and flow below ground, less susceptible to changes above. Humans and wildlife move through this region similarly, forming a network of fluctuating corridors across two countries. Political, economic, and environmental forces require them to adapt; their movements are fleeting and mostly hidden. Scientists and government agencies observe and analyze these passageways remotely. Partnering with wildlife biologists, I merge imagery from their monitoring technologies with my photographs. As both artist and citizen scientist, I collapse intimate and distanced views of the border landscape. A new framework for understanding concealed movement emerges, suggesting continuous circulation just beyond our unaided vision. Remote-sensing and recognition tools, whether deployed for research or surveillance, monitor similar spaces, capture similar footage, and analyze data with similar software. Their deployers compile narrow information sets consistent with their motives. In many cases, human vision and recognition becomes secondary: the watcher (camera system) informs the identifier (software) autonomously. Despite these tools of enhanced vision, our capacity to see and understand is clouded by layers of detachment. Does de- humanized observation create an impassive and simplified lens through which to view this complex and contested space? Is there room for empathy in a system that promotes objectivity? I examine these concerns and encourage viewers to consider subjects and scenes beyond their assigned taxonomies and flattened narratives. Still, the machine eye watches and collects. In the endless accumulation of footage, patterns emerge and individual moments dissolve. The current reveals our presence and our marks, either ephemeral or enduring.