About Manifest Destiny

Picture this: Turn back the page of any book, turn it slowly feeling the paper’s smooth finish slip between thumb and forefinger. Let the book become bigger in your mind’s eye, bigger than you, as big as houses. Now step behind the page as it opens. Enter the story, stepping under the tent-like embrace of the lifted page. Step through into a space with no edges, defined by story and make-believe and memory…

a multi-media, immersive sensory experience
by artist Renée Cinderhouse.


Artist Statement

The time for this is now.

2012 is not only an election year in one of the most divided times in American history since the Civil War, it is also a year of prophesied apocalypse. An end to the world as we know it. This could mean an end to the way we perceive our world; a moment of critical shift in our understanding of ourselves and our place within the burgeoning global culture. An apocalypse of contemporary thought and opinion allowing for fundamental change; an information renaissance.

Our culture is struggling to understand its future, striving to have a clear understanding of where we are headed. When we don’t have a sense of hope and betterment coming, we fall sway to the idea that the world must end soon because we can’t see a way forward from here. When our paradigms are shifting, leaving us rudderless, it is imperative to understand the stories we are telling as a culture.

Since the demise of oral folklore tradition and story-telling as a family past-time we have become dependent on mainstream media to be our story-tellers. Choosing which subject matter is up for debate and which issues are the forefront of our cultural discussion; whether it be gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose or taxation of the nation’s wealthiest citizens, the perspective of the media is not necessarily the opinion of the majority. The media’s stories are so taken for granted to be our cultural priorities that we have lost the fundamental understanding that we get to choose the subjects we want to talk about to begin with.

Our priorities are chosen by the stories we tell ourselves; the meta-narratives of our culture. These stories are what we all have in common and provide each of us with personal context, giving meaning and bearing to our lives. And yet, these issues are viewed as external creations, forces that we have no power to change and can only react to. We can change the conversation the media is having with us as a passive audience. We need to be the ones to define who we are and, by extension, decide the direction of our country and our role in global culture. Let’s collectively re-write the stories we are telling as a culture. Let’s take over where the news and politics leave us voiceless about the things we really should be talking about.

I believe in personal freedoms. I believe in the personal right to choose: your partner, your family, your life-path and future. I believe that the conversations we are having, directed by the media, are not our true priorities as a culture and that we are capable of so much more. I believe the stories we are telling now are crippling us. There are other ways to see the world. We just need to be shown how. And it is up to artists to show us.

Manifest Destiny tells a story of our present as we continually re-write our understanding of our past. It tells of the ghostly influence of American history as it bisects the present, the overlap of decisions long past casting their shadow on decisions we are struggling with now. This installation is a collection of paths that weren’t taken; paths that could have and should have and maybe still do lay open to us if only lingering in our dreams, who we might have been or who we were and have forgotten… sculptures that capture cultural conversations never started and yet their unspoken words seem to hang in the rooms of our dreams like smoke. Manifest Destiny is an echo; we can almost hear what we are trying to say, the story we’d like to be telling, but with the sense that we are in another room deciphering only fragments like whispers through closed doors.

Everything we have ever been and everything we are yet to become is carried in each of us now. At this very moment. Like all the genetic material for a complete organism is carried in a seed and every cell contains all of an individual’s DNA, we are all in a process of mapping our destinies. This is our story, and we can tell it any way we choose.

Show Statement

In a fraction of a second, a photograph reduces all motion to one frozen moment. These snapshots depict one tiny piece of the continuum that we understand as time’s normal passage. But photography is only a souvenir of a moment, one step removed from the actual experience itself. When you look at a photograph to revisit your memory of that moment, it is not the experience itself: it is a token of the experience, a keepsake, something to jog the memory.

Manifest Destiny distills a frozen moment in full 3-dimensional space. Within this immersive installation, you get to explore one photographic moment in time as an actual physical experience.  As time’s passage is stopped, the sculptures become objects of arrested motion presented in narrative vignettes. The installation fills all your senses, not just your eyes. You move through time while your surroundings hold their breath and stand still around you. You are free to explore at your leisure; like you have stepped into a photograph and have all the time in the world to explore the nuances of that one fleeting moment… without the moment passing you by before you’ve had a chance to register its details or its meaning.

And it is in these still moments that beauty is captured. Beauty is not a blur but in the details: a simple image that burns itself into your mind’s eye and takes your breath away and stays with you forever…. The quality of light through trees, a lover’s graceful hand, the moment of flight as a bird strives between sky and ground….Each of these moments recalls a certain time and place, reminds you of who you are and where you’ve been and conjures a specific feeling and state of mind. I wish to conjure for you; to create a feeling without words that calls out to the other spaces and times kept inside each of us.


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