“If You Build It We Will Burn It.”
The Earth Liberation Front issued this ominous threat in 2003 on a banner hung from the charred remnants of a San Diego condominium, the ruins of a massive attack incurring $50 million in damages.
Now, locally based artist Jerstin Crosby has recreated this act of eco-terrorism in a new art exhibition appropriately titled If You Build It We will Burn It at Raleigh’s Lump gallery. The show is split into two installations that separately explore the world of ELF and its members, known as “The Elves.”
The first installation is subtly engulfing. The viewer walks into the gallery and is immediately surrounded by a cage-like construction representing the ruined remains of an apartment unit. The space is barren, except for a spray-painted warning blatantly calling to mind ELF’s 2003 exhortation.
Continuing through this gutted skeleton, the viewer approaches the second installation, titled “Visual Representation of Invisible Processes.” This element of the show is an amalgamation of fantastical pieces representing the various cultural influences on environmental extremist groups such as The Elves.
In the center of the room, a small television broadcasts various psychedelic programs, including the Elf News Network. Turn to the left and a mobile composed of vegetarian food boxes and hemp rope sways in one corner. Another wall features a photograph of Robert Smithson’s famous land art sculpture, “Spiral Jetty.” Various ceramic nuts are imposed on its surface, juxtaposing a famous 1970s earthwork with the simple notion of trail mix.
Due to the unstated historical events that serve as the reference for the show, the initial reaction to “Visual Representation of Invisible Processes” is one of perplexed curiosity. Without prior knowledge of environmental activism, the viewer will be hard-pressed to fully recognize the exhibit’s value. Yet with context, the exhibition reveals a surprisingly witty commentary on the circumstances contributing to radical behavior. Crosby cleverly couples more concrete ideas of environmental policy with a whimsical invocation of fairytale and hallucinogenic influences.
Like the subject upon which the exhibition focuses, If You Build It We will Burn It seems perfectly suited to the collective nature of Lump. Over a decade ago, Lump emerged as a group of collaborative artists seeking to co-curate and support each other’s work. JCrosby is one of many TeamLump artists who continue to foster the idea of a liberating and cooperative local art space.
If You Build It We will Burn It runs at Lump, 505 S. Blount St. in Raleigh, through Sept. 26. For more information visit