The Dia Art Foundation has announced that Cameron Rowland has awarded the organization stewardship of their 2018 work Depreciation, which, like much of their work, explores issues of racism, capitalism, and power. The work’s main component is a single acre of land on South Carolina’s Edisto Island and its attendant legal status; the plot, part of the onetime Maxcy Place plantation, was one of the portions of land given to formerly enslaved people under General William Tecumseh Sherman’s 1865 Special Field Orders, No.15, which allowed each recipient “forty acres and a mule.” The acre was one of many repossessed by Confederate owners after President Andrew Johnson in 1866 rescinded the orders following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson offered formerly enslaved landowners the option of sharecropping for the white repossessors or being evicted and likely arrested for being homeless under the Black Codes’ vagrancy clauses. The revocation of the orders affected 10,000 freed people on Edisto Island alone.
Rowland in 2018 purchased this particular plot through a nonprofit company, 8060 Maxie Road Inc., formed for that purpose and named after the parcel’s address. They then placed the land under a restrictive covenant, barring all future development and use and thus reducing its value to zero dollars. The restriction endures regardless of whether the parcel changes hands.
Dia’s stewardship of the work constitutes a long-term loan. “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,” said Dia director Jessica Morgan in a statement.
“As a site that questions notions of property, land occupation, and the art pilgrimage, Depreciation both complements and productively challenges Dia’s existing sites,” said Dia curator Jordan Carter and associate curator Matilde Guidelli-Guidi in a joint statement. “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.”
The land will not be open to the public, who, according to a Dia press release, are “discouraged” from visiting. Affiliated documents—a land survey and official papers confirming the parcel’s purchase and its legal status—will go on long-term view at the Dia Chelsea branch in New York this month. Dia Beacon will host an exhibition of work by Rowland, curated by Carter, in spring 2024.