The materials and figures I am in conversation with while making are referent to the interconnectedness of the actants in our current agricultural predicament. One is human, one is not, but either figure cannot exist without the other, and thus their agency is equal and certain. The conversations between these figures are tacit, requiring an ear that can understand the stillness of language the non-human materials prefer. I have stopped speaking to these figures, I now only listen to their silence so I can better understand what they have to say. The connections that are formed in my prints scrutinize the complicated locus of American agriculture and creates a landscape that challenges the position of the actants in their spatial narratives. By placing myself or alternate versions of myself in these scenes by way of my twin brother or a doppelgänger in dialogue with the crops, I contemplate my relevance to the evolving circumstances of this ecological dilemma. Monocropping, over extraction of resources, seed erasure, food production, and an inherited landscape that has been wounded by both American capitalism and human exceptionalism are questioned and analyzed in my research. These reimagined territories indicate a need for kinship amongst the human and non-human actants in the natural world and question how I may have contributed to, accepted or rejected the culture I was raised with and continue to live in.
The complicated intersection of Midwestern agriculture, American capitalism and resource scarcity takes shape in the imagined landscapes of Dustin Brinkman’s narratival prints. Inspired by the high impact and socio-critical history of printmaking by artist such as Albrecht Dürer, Francisco Goya and Ben Shahn, Brinkman’s prints satirize the abuses humans inflict on the environment as they continue practices such as mono-cropping, genetic modification of seeds and the use of agricultural pesticides. In efforts to reenvison a human-nature kinship, Brinkman foregrounds cooperative practices like permaculture—a regenerative approach to farming which mimics natural ecosystems. Moreover, Brinkman intentionally sizes his print series to replicate traditional 18x24 inch poster measurements in order to convey a sense of urgency to implement regenerative agricultural practices.
In addition to using relief and screen printing, Brinkman creates corn stalks to stand before his images. These cast ears of corn and printed husks act, according to the artist, as representatives of the environment—each of them demanding visibility and respect for the side of nature in the complex agricultural debate. Furthermore, the ears of corn speak to the need to reduce waste in society, as they are made from paper recycled by the artist throughout his work. Brinkman considers both the printed and cast corn stalks as characters in the satirical narrative his prints aim to tell. The images often show the artist, or his twin brother, interacting with the crop in a meditative or collaborative fashion. These surreal interactions enable the artist to present a dialogue between humanity and its food. In doing so, Brinkman also encourages viewers to ask what agricultural narratives they are missing in their lives.
— Lauren Caskey