Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Margaret Bohls

Second Advisor

Santiago Cal

Third Advisor

Katie Anania

Date of this Version

Spring 4-2022

Document Type



Arkush, Allison R. It won’t be easy. 2022. [MFA thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln]. UNL Digital Commons.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts, Major: Art, Under the Supervision of Professor Margaret Bohls. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2022

Copyright © 2022 Allison Regina Arkush


Interdisciplinary artist Allison Arkush engages a wide range of materials, modalities, and research in her practice. In It Won’t Be Easy, Arkush places and piles her multimedia sculptures throughout the gallery to create installations that overlap ­with her writing and poetry, sometimes layering in (or extending out to) audio and video components. This approach facilitates the probing exploration of prevailing value systems through a flattening of hierarchies among and between humans, the other-than-human, and the inanimate—though no less lively. Her work meditates on and ‘vendiagrams’ things forsaken and sacred, the traumatic and nostalgic. The exhibition title acknowledges that the work can be a challenge, for the viewer and for the artist. It also speaks of the future, and the in-progress reality of climate change accelerating. Yet implied here too is hope, in the inclination to finish the sentence: “It won’t be easy, but…”

The works in It Won’t Be Easy can be understood (i.e. read) similarly to her poems, handwritten diagrams, annotations, and even the scrawled lists. But instead of words the arrangements are primarily of physical objects and materials: her more-than-linguistic language. She both celebrates and frustrate the limits of language. She heavily underlines passages of Karen Barad, Donna Haraway, Michael Foucault, and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s writings: language only represents matter approximately. Their words a comfort (how ironic). Allison visualizes the borders of language as a murky interspace, both tidal zone and deep sea. Low-visibility, turbulent, fertile, fecund, gritty yet slippery, muddy. In using language to describe and examine the internal logic of her practice—figuring and refiguring through outlines, word webs, poetics, essays, expectations—she seeks to notice, identify, languish and luxuriate in these areas of tension/dissonance/imperfection. Also noting when(if?) areas that resist such elisions reveal themselves. Distilled from, or dissolved into, aqueous and frothy solutions. In this way Allison and the viewer begin to make meaning, question, and speculate on alternative narratives and notions of progress, with the potential to resonate across personal, collective, and temporal levels.

There is an underlying, undulating, lexicon of motifs that connect the human and nonhuman narratives within her work. The individual symbols of this lexicon are germunits, each representing a single germinated concept/object that has proliferated and taken on new associations and meanings, deeply rooted in and vining through her practice. Arkush created the term ‘germunit’ deliberately using words that tie the work to the sciences, and that establish/imply the germunit’s function as a fundamental building block within her practice. Like an atom or cell. They coalesce and congest into larger sculptures, Object Ecosystems: works containing multiple germunits, materials, making processes, ideas, and objects (found, altered, sculpted, hidden). Mixing materials and more, Object Ecosystems organize, they branch out, forming tentacular knots and networks of trophic exchange. Each germunit is in conversation with the Object Ecosystem(s) it inhabits. The Object Ecosystem is in conversation within its own content and the constellation of other Object Ecosystems in It Won’t Be Easy. Transitively—epigenetically, even—germunits are all in connected conversation with one another; networks of webs of infinite combinations and trains of query. Not all yield compelling results/relationships, not right now at least. So those fade back into the neuronal network, looking like the aroura borealis in movement. The fore shifts and subducts, evolving. Thready mycology grows and brings formerly faded strands to the surface. Each encoded like DNA (or hyperlinks), with its history, its present, and its potentials. In these circuitous constellations there’s no such thing as compartmentalizing. Manifestations of decay and growth, of wasted and spent, of strange and familiar, all overlap. Arrangements become portals of and through temporality, flickering like lantern light or a cephalopod’s chromatophores.

Advisor: Margaret Bohls