January 13, 2016

Young Suh and Katie Peterson: Can We Live Here? Stories from A Difficult World

Mills College Art Museum
Young Suh, Birthday, 2014. Archival pigment print, 44 x 54 inches. Courtesy of Mills College Art Museum.

In Can We Live Here? Stories from a Difficult World photographer Young Suh and poet Katie Peterson create new work in their first collaborative exhibition together. Drawing on a shared interest in landscape developed in different media, their project examines the struggle of humans to survive in a rapidly changing natural world and the shifting concepts of nature that govern that world. In Can We Live Here? Stories From A Difficult World, the artists create works that upend the Romantic tradition of the sublime landscape and respond to the Romantic tradition of populist, narrative storytelling. These works bring into focus how daily life itself is charged with a sense of environmental disaster, and elevating the stakes of ordinary experience beyond the ordinary to the mythic.

Two screening rooms will feature new videos that explore in narrative and abstract form how civilization’s failures follow us into natural experience, especially during a time of environmental crisis. The exhibition also showcases a new series of photographs, both as large-scale prints and in intimate book form, that depict human activity within the beautiful and remote landscapes of the California desert and Alaska. References to Emily Dickinson appear through multiple recreations of her small writing desk, inviting visitors to engage directly with the artists’ books, which combine photography and resonant, concise text to create a contemplative space. A donkey appears as a disruptive protagonist throughout the work, surfacing in the video and materializing as a performance figure. With this exhibition, Suh and Peterson present a poetic series of works that subtly disrupt assumptions about both the depiction and perception of being in nature.

Young Suh is Associate Professor of Art and Co-Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of California, Davis. He received his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and his BFA from Pratt Institute. His work has been exhibited widely, including shows at Haines Gallery, San Francisco; the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento, CA; Gallery ON, Seoul; the Chelsea Art Museum, New York; The Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA; SF Camerawork, San Francisco; and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA.

Katie Peterson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She received her PhD from Harvard University and her BA from Stanford University. She is the author of three collections of poetry, This One Tree (2006), Permission (2013) and The Accounts (2013). She is the winner of the 2014 Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas.

This exhibition is supported by the Agnes Cowles Bourne Fund for Special Exhibitions and the Joan Danforth Art Museum Endowment.

Public programs 
Visit for full details

Wednesday, January 20, 6–8pm

Bray, a performance
Tuesday, February 2, 6pm

Artist talk: Young Suh & Katie Peterson
Wednesday, February 10, 7pm
Danforth Lecture Hall, Mills College

Writers and musicians respond to Can We Live Here
Wednesday, March 9, 7pm


About the Mills College Art Museum (MCAM)
Founded in 1925, The Mills College Art Museum is a forum for exploring art and ideas and a laboratory for contemporary art practices. Through innovative exhibitions, programs, and collections, the museum engages and inspires the intellectual and creative life of the Mills community as well as the diverse audiences of the Bay Area and beyond.

Media contact: Maysoun Wazwaz, T +1 510 430 3340, [email protected].


Mills College Art Museum presents Can We Live Here? Stories from A Difficult World

Thank you!

An email with a confirmation link has been sent to the email address you entered. To complete your subscription, click this link.