Smack Mellon Studios' new location, a 150 year old former spice factory still redolent with the aroma and golden color of cinnamon and cloves, is the site of our fall exhibition, Natural Histories. Physically dramatic and historically rich, this space provides a context that informs the artists' explorations of what is meant by natural history. Until recently, the term was thought to reveal, among other things, the timeless truths of species, landscapes and civilizations which are now extinct or destroyed. For more than two decades, however, the cultural attitudes of dominance, superiority and repression that were mostly invisible in more traditional approaches to natural history have been exposed by a variety of theoretical critiques. 

While the artists in the exhibition are a diverse group with widely varying practices they each approach the problematic aspects of natural history as a given. Not content to simply expand this critique, participants use it as a part of their conceptual context. Consequently, the installations, which range from the investigation of mechanisms of social control to experiments with biochemical processes, from the disclosure of intimate narratives to the search for perceptual and linguistic anomalies, and from the transformation of apparently mutant animal species to the disruption of architectural space can each be understood in terms of its broader social, cultural and political implications. At the same time, however, these larger issues remain located in and viewed through the relationships between the very palpable physical environment of the spice factory and the densely specific history it evokes.