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Going North to Get South: Navigating Jo Harvey Allen's Alt-Country

Authors: Caitlin Grann*, University of New Mexico
Topics: Cultural Geography, Women, Regional Geography
Keywords: Performance, North American Southwest, Soundscape, Art
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Jo Harvey Allen is an artist, writer, and actress whose work is cited as transforming performance art in the 1980s. I consider her archive as a creatively constructed landscape, an alternative country fastened to the North American Southwest. I explore this landscape via analytical regions that are critical in nature: gender, class, religion, race, and coloniality. In 2016, I began working for Jo Harvey as an assistant in her studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I moved into a casita on her property in early 2017 which influenced my own affective experience of seeking out particular material representations in her alt-country. The roles of assistant and neighbor are not separate from my role of researcher; my engagement with her living archive is influenced by Jo Harvey’s relationship with it. Her husband and at times artistic collaborator, Terry Allen, alt-country musician and world renowned multi-media artist, lives and works on the property as well. His presence resounds throughout her entire archive. Inspired by the collaborative efforts of Kathleen Stewart and Lauren Berlant, I consider Jo Harvey and Terry to be world-makers. Further, I understand Jo Harvey’s use of Terry’s music as a sort of productive world-clashing. With this paper, I explore the dialectical nature of the soundscape in Jo Harvey’s archive by presenting specific moments where Terry’s music syncs with her work. These moments, charged with historicized potential, demonstrate and challenge the precarious yet grounded development of place in the North American Southwest.

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