Naomi Reis: Talisman for Unknown Territories

a photo of a balloon over a landscape

Consisting of a video, window installation and sculptural objects, the piece addresses our collective anxiety about the future within a warming and divisive global landscape. The video features aerial footage taken by a GoPro attached to helium balloons and flown over landscapes shaped by human interventions, while the installation features hanging vines made from printed washi-paper cutouts of Boston ivy, along with hand-crafted talismans made from locally grown wild grasses. The title comes from the translation of terra incognita, the cartography term for undocumented regions on a map.

The installation addresses our anxieties about the future within a warming and divisive global landscape.

Our present moment is represented by the video "Destabilized Landscapes" on the atrium wall, consisting of footage taken on a Go-Pro that was flown like a kite via drug-store helium balloons over East Oregonian lava pits and reservoirs. The resulting footage—at times calm and steady and others violent and shaky—serves as a metaphor for our position within the Anthropocene, as climate change and political unrest tips us into unknown territories.

Silhouetted in the windows is a curtain of hanging vines, made from printed washi paper and mylar cutouts, and a series of hand-crafted talismans that incorporate wild grasses grown locally in Pennsylvania. Vines universally symbolize tenacity, regeneration, and connectivity, while the talisman is an interpretation of a shimenawa: a Japanese Shinto rope that marks the boundary between sacred space and ordinary life. Inspired by indigenous traditions linking back to early agriculture and cycles of growing, these talismans usher in auspicious beginnings for the new academic year.