Dia Announces Stewardship of Cameron Rowland’s Depreciation, 2018
The Artwork Becomes a Site in Dia’s Constellation of Exhibition Spaces and Site-Specific Projects in the United States and Germany
New York, NY, May 18, 2023 – Dia Art Foundation today announced Cameron Rowland’s Depreciation, 2018, as a new Dia site. Dia’s stewardship of Depreciation extends its unwavering commitment to site-specific projects that has been in place since the foundation’s inception in the 1970s.
The extended caption for the work reads:
Restrictive covenant; 1 acre on Edisto Island, South Carolina
Extended loan, Dia Art Foundation
40 acres and a mule as reparations for slavery originates in General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15, issued on January 16, 1865. Sherman’s Field Order 15 was issued out of concern for a potential uprising of the thousands of ex-slaves who were following his army by the time it arrived in Savannah.1
The field order stipulated that “The islands from Charleston south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns River, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the Proclamation of the President of the United States. . . . Each family shall have a plot of not more than forty acres of tillable ground.”2
This was followed by the formation of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands in March 1865. In the months immediately following the issue of the field orders, approximately 40,000 former slaves settled in the area designated by Sherman on the basis of possessory title.3 10,000 of these former slaves were settled on Edisto Island, South Carolina.4
In 1866, following Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson effectively rescinded Field Order 15 by ordering these lands be returned to their previous Confederate owners. Former slaves were given the option to work for their former masters as sharecroppers or be evicted. If evicted, former slaves could be arrested for homelessness under vagrancy clauses of the Black Codes. Those who refused to leave and refused to sign sharecrop contracts were threatened with arrest.
Although restoration of the land to the previous Confederate owners was slowed in some cases by court challenges filed by ex-slaves, nearly all the land settled was returned by the 1870s. As Eric Foner writes, “Johnson had in effect abrogated the Confiscation Act and unilaterally amended the law creating the [Freedmen’s] Bureau. The idea of a Freedmen’s Bureau actively promoting black landownership had come to an abrupt end.”5 The Freedmen’s Bureau agents became primary proponents of labor contracts inducting former slaves into the sharecropping system.6
Among the lands that were repossessed in 1866 by former Confederate owners was the Maxcy Place plantation. “A group of freed people were at Maxcy Place in January 1866. . . . The people contracted to work for the proprietor, but no contract or list of names has been found.”7
The one-acre piece of land at 8060 Maxie Road, Edisto Island, South Carolina, was part of the Maxcy Place plantation. This land was purchased at market value on August 6, 2018, by 8060 Maxie Road, Inc., a nonprofit company formed for the sole purpose of buying this land and recording a restrictive covenant on its use. This covenant has as its explicit purpose the restriction of all development and use of the property by the owner.
The property is now appraised at $0. By rendering it legally unusable, this restrictive covenant eliminates the market value of the land. These restrictions run with the land, regardless of the owner. As such, they will last indefinitely.
As reparation, this covenant asks how land might exist outside of the legal-economic regime of property that was instituted by slavery and colonization. Rather than redistributing the property, the restriction imposed on 8060 Maxie Road’s status as valuable and transactable real estate asserts antagonism to the regime of property as a means of reparation.
8060 Maxie Road is not for visitation.
1 Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877, updated ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1988; New York: HarperCollins, 2014), p. 71.
2 Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, Special Field Orders No. 15 (1865).
3 Foner, Reconstruction, p. 71.
4 Charles Spencer, Edisto Island 1861 to 2006: Ruin, Recovery and Rebirth (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2008), p. 87.
5 Foner, Reconstruction, p. 161.
6 Foner, p. 161.
7 Spencer, Edisto Island 1861 to 2006, p. 95.
Depreciation extends and critiques the legacies of Conceptual and Land art that are key to Dia’s mission. In accord with the logic of the work and its conceptual and political terms, the conversation between Dia and Cameron Rowland has resulted in an indefinite extended loan agreement that stipulates the terms of Dia’s continued stewardship, rather than ownership, of Depreciation in partnership with 8060 Maxie Road, Inc., the nonprofit organization founded to acquire the land.
The legal status of the land is the crux of the artwork. The framed documents that survey the land, register its purchase, and define its legal status make up the component of the artwork that is intended for exhibition. The experience of the work is not predicated on visiting the land and, in fact, visitation is discouraged.
“Dia’s stewardship of Depreciation continues our founding mission of forging sustained collaborations with artists to ensure the legacy of their work that, physically or conceptually, is often beyond the scope and scale of the conventional museum or gallery model. While many of the other works that make up our constellation of locations and sites engage the physical encounter between the viewer, the work, and their surroundings, Depreciation instead probes the idea of site in an entirely different manner,” said Jessica Morgan, Dia’s Nathalie de Gunzburg Director. “The legal and bureaucratic origins of this work, and its non-transactional logic, also interrogate the role of the institution on a micro and macro level. We are thrilled to enter this long-term agreement with Cameron Rowland to preserve the integrity of the work and promote important dialogue around its conceptual tenets.”
“Dia stewards each of its sites based on its individual conditions and needs, and Depreciation extends this commitment to meeting each of these works on its own terms. But as a site that questions notions of property, land occupation, and the art pilgrimage, Depreciation both complements and productively challenges Dia’s existing sites. In this context, it critically shifts Land art’s terms of engagement and proposes new urgencies, stakes, and possibilities within the institution and the field,” said Jordan Carter, curator, and Matilde Guidelli-Guidi, associate curator.
Cameron Rowland’s work centers on the material operations of racial capitalism that order everyday life. Their work is grounded in a critique of property.
The component of Depreciation intended for exhibition will be on long-term display at Dia Chelsea starting this May. Dia further announces an exhibition of new work by Rowland, curated by Jordan Carter, that will premiere at Dia Beacon in spring 2024.
About Cameron Rowland
Cameron Rowland was born in Philadelphia in 1988. They live in New York.
About Dia Art Foundation
Taking its name from the Greek word meaning “through,” Dia was established in 1974 with the mission to serve as a conduit for artists to realize ambitious new projects, unmediated by overt interpretation and uncurbed by the limitations of more traditional museums and galleries. Dia’s programming fosters contemplative and sustained consideration of a single artist’s body of work, and its collection is distinguished by the deep and long-standing relationships that the nonprofit has cultivated with artists whose work came to prominence particularly in the 1960s and ’70s.
In addition to Dia Beacon, Dia Bridgehampton, and Dia Chelsea, Dia maintains and operates a constellation of commissions, long-term installations, and site-specific projects, notably focused on Land art, nationally and internationally. These include:
- Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), and Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks, inaugurated in 1982 and ongoing), all located in New York City
- De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977), in western New Mexico
- Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), in the Great Salt Lake, Utah
- Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973–76), in the Great Basin Desert, Utah
- De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), in Kassel, Germany
For additional information or materials, contact:
(U.S. press inquiries)
Hannah Gompertz, Dia Art Foundation, email@example.com, +1 212 293 5598
Melissa Parsoff, Parsoff Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 516 445 5899
(International press inquiries)
Sam Talbot, email@example.com, +44 (0) 772 5184 630