Amy Stein, Backyard, 2007; digital C-print; courtesy the artist

Great things are done when men and mountains meet.
— William Blake

Few can contest the decentralization of contemporary art production in recent decades; still even fewer have attempted to explain this phenomenon beyond the lauding of major breakthroughs in technology. By “decentralization” I speak not just of physical locations that reside outside cosmopolitan art-world centers but to the ever-diminishing divide between center and periphery. Today, that margin is an amorphous, porous, liminal, contested terrain, at best ill-defined by geographic demarcation. In other words, it is an outlook, not a place.

With this in mind, what if decentralization were actually indicative of a real live paradigm shift in contemporary art? And if so, how would such a shift manifest itself within the ranks of the avant-garde? Clearly, the answer resides in the collective ether of gray matter, but it is most easily identified by artistic output. This issue of Art Lies, “The Back Forty,” presents likely candidates for the confirmation of a paradigm shift, most of whom in some way address modern man’s problematic relationship to nature. We have, for reasons both practical and polemical, dubbed the crossroads at which the two intersect, engage and potentially commingle as “the rural.” This is not a nostalgic return to the pastoral—far from it, in fact. It is a re-siting of points of creative genesis in response to an uncertain world, a smudging of the line between center and periphery that suggests territories need not be conquered in order to be understood.

Anjali Gupta, Editor