Feld Station 4

The Mississippi Project

As a central axis through the real and mythical America, the Mississippi creates a particularly heterogeneous space where nature, culture and history intersect in a unique way. Confluence Ecologies moved in the "Confluence Territory", where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers (in southern Illinois and western Kentucky) meet. This field station presented an in-depth exploration of opioid addiction and our dependence on coal and nuclear power, issues of native species loss and invasive replacement, animal labor and ethical questions of future terraforming and historic geoengineering initiatives. According to these research aspects, Field Station 4 consisted of six individual projects.

The results from all six individual projects were integrated into the event Confluence Ecologies from October 11th to 13th, 2019. This was Field Station 4's largest public event, offering a wide variety of formats: an exhibition at the Carbondale Community Art Center, which attracted 380 people; the aforementioned exhibition at the SIU Museum, which attracted 1145 visitors; the Asian Carp Convivial and Walk About It Walk, also discussed above, with 220 and 70 participants respectively; the River Model Demonstration; and the Confluence Bus Tour. The River Model Demonstration is a simulation of the riverbed, showing how each human intervention has a domino effect of consequences for the river and surrounding areas. 45 participants took part in this simulation on the morning of 13 October. This was followed by an all-day bus excursion through the Confluence area, which combined information provided in the bus with on-site visits. 56 people took part in this excursion.
 
Through various events between March and November 2019, Field Station 4 has actively involved some 2,200 people.

  • Reshaping the Shape © Sarah Levinson, Andrew Yang
  • This is not about survival © Michael Swierz and Maureen Walrath
  • timeslips © Marlena Novak
  • born secret © Jeremy Bolen
  • lounging through the flood © Jenny Kendler & Jeremy Bolen

Umgestaltung der Form

Embodiment, ecology and culture of a post-natural fish
Sarah Lewison and Andrew Yang

The Asian carp is the creature of the Anthropocene par excellence. The fish has been denigrated for its invasiveness in the Mississippi and its tributaries and has become part of the second nature of the river. By looking at the entangled cultural and natural history of carp, the organizers raised the fundamental question of how man and nature change each other. The project tried to follow the stories and forms through which the Asian carp could be reinvented and transformed from an enemy of the state to the mascot of a global community.

The project participants contributed to this coming together of people, rivers and fish by visiting the sites and companies where the fish thrive, are caught, processed and used. In production is a video about the journey of the fish, with interviews with people whose fate is linked to the Asian carp. This serves as a documentation and at the same time as an attempt to find ways to integrate the history of this fish species into the cultural life of Southern Illinois.
When the first signs of the Anthropocene begin to appear in the early 1950s with the construction of the enrichment plant, and 2) the primary features of the Anthropocene are the radionuclides that were deposited in fine sediment layers on the planet in the course of the ground weapons tests between 1952 and 1964, then the Metropolis-Paducah connection can be seen as the epitome of the production process of global ecological change. The organizers followed this process along the Ohio and Kentucky rivers to reach one of its starting points in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the Manhattan Project used hydroelectric power provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority's River Basin Development Program.

Based on interviews and local research, Hopium Economy attempts to provide a broader context for the ongoing opioid crisis in the Midwest. Rather than simply tracing its origins back to addiction and decline, the aim is to find out how this cycle of addiction, depression and despair is the result of a combination of several factors. These factors include the public health system, the antagonism between rural and urban areas, the pharmaceutical industry, racist tensions, deindustrialization. Furthermore, the project questions the way we understand substance addictions and their history by considering addiction as an essential form of our existence and as a possible core of our relationship with the planet. Is substance addiction in a broader sense not just a metaphor, but the essence of our inability to respond to the demand for changes in the Anthropocene?

The organizers explored these questions in a two-channel video installation. This merged two originally independent video trajectories into an interwoven narrative about substance addiction. They also participated in the exhibition at SIU during the Anthropocene River Journey and organized screenings and performances in Cairo and Paducah.

This is not about Survival

(it's about bringing your Coracle)
Michael Swierz and Maureen Walrath
 
This project proposed a participatory ecological intervention in the canebrake habitat to study and implement anthropic manipulation methods in the canebrake ecology, which at the same time should serve to revive the canebrake and restore it to its former range and biodiversity.
 
The project was carried out as a series of site visits and stays in the Canebrake during which habitat manipulations were carried out. A selection of artifacts from this participatory settlement and a written and illustrated publication, a kind of guide to participatory ecology, were made available to the public. In addition, visitors were allowed to take potted giant reed cuttings home with them.
During the Anthropocene River Journey, the artists offered a guided tour of the Canebrake site.

Timeslips

Jay Alan Yim Marlena Novak
 
The project deals with the topics geoengineering and terraforming. Marlena and Jay produced a 1920x1080 single-channel video, which they used in the group exhibition at the Southern Illinois University Museum.

Born Secret & Hopium Economy

Jeremy Bolen, Brian Holmes, Brian Kirkbride, Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann
 
Born Secret begins in Metropolis, where the mythical Superman discovered his only fatal weakness and produced the real Honeywell plant uranium hexafluoride for the U235 enrichment plant in Paducah across the river. If one accepts two premises, namely that 1) the "great acceleration" of scientifically based industrial development began in the early 1950s with the construction of the enrichment plant, and 2) the primary features of the Anthropocene are the radionuclides deposited in fine sediment layers on the planet in the course of ground weapon tests between 1952 and 1964, then the Metropolis-Paducah connection can be regarded as the epitome of the production process of global ecological change.

The organizers followed this process along the Ohio and Kentucky rivers to reach one of its starting points in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the Manhattan Project used hydroelectric power provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority's River Basin Development Program.

Based on interviews and local research, Hopium Economy attempts to provide a broader context for the ongoing opioid crisis in the Midwest. Rather than simply tracing its origins back to addiction and decline, the aim is to find out how this cycle of addiction, depression and despair is the result of a combination of several factors. These factors include the public health system, the antagonism between rural and urban areas, the pharmaceutical industry, racist tensions, deindustrialization.
Furthermore, the project questions the way we understand substance addictions and their history by considering addiction as an essential form of our existence and as a possible core of our relationship with the planet. Is substance addiction in a broader sense not just a metaphor, but the essence of our inability to respond to the demand for changes in the Anthropocene?

The organizers explored these questions in a two-channel video installation. This merged two originally independent video trajectories into an interwoven narrative about substance addiction. They also participated in the exhibition at SIU during the Anthropocene River Journey and organized screenings and performances in Cairo and Paducah.

Carboniferous - Carbondale

(From Pennsylvania to Carbondale with love)
Amber Ginsburg, Claire Pentecost, Kayla Anderson, Sara Black, Sarah Lewison

The Southern Illinois Basin is home to a 300 million-year-old fossil carbon forest whose biomass - whole trees, root balls and leaves - is completely preserved. One geologist calls the fossils "death masks" of an old peat swamp. A miner says that mining is therefore beautiful. Carboniferous - Carbondale used interviews and stories to make this beauty tangible and combines coal mining with the uniqueness of these ancient biological forms in a mixed media installation. The installation attempts to connect the fate of this former forest with our present moment.

Karboniferous - Carbondale aimed to give a new perspective on the long period of time required for the formation of coal. The organizers started with field research and interviews with paleo-geologists, miners and others who witnessed the fossil forests or coal mining in their area. These voices were incorporated into the final project in the form of an exhibition and walk.
 
The exhibition in turn took the form of a time-based performative multimedia installation with sound, light, video and objects in two adjacent rooms. In a first room, stories of those who have seen the forests or collected their fossils were linked with sounds, anecdotes and images to connect the points between the late Carboniferous and the present moment through geological and anthropocentric associations. A second room revealed physical fossils borrowed from collections of miners, geologists and local museums. The organizers experimented with deconstructing the viewer's learned approach to such artifacts by making connections between the deep time of roots, trunk and canopy - whose soils were extracted as coal - and the unsustainable carbon content of our atmosphere today.
 
A walk with paleo-geologist Scott Elrick and other experts along the area above the preserved fossil forest, a five mile wide, one hundred mile long crescent, invited participants to imagine the contents from above. This walk, which was attended by 70 people, took place on October 12 as part of the public event Confluence Ecologies.

Lounging through the flood

Jenny Kendler, Jeremy Bolen

"Lounging Through the Flood" is a floating sculpture anchored off the tip of Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. An armchair painted all in white stands on a large pile of life rings, similar to a monument or memorial. The publicly visible (and accessible) work can be seen from both land and water.
 
Ninety-two years ago, the Mississippi River flooded its banks and inundated more than 27,000 square kilometers of farms and cities. The event is known as "The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927". In today's era of accelerating climate change, these once rare events have become increasingly common, making the attitude of ignoring them all the more absurd. Lounging through the Flood is a sculpture created to navigate these literal and cultural waters that define and delineate a typically American geography - not only of the American heartland, but also of the American spirit.
 
This floating collection of 92 life rings, crowned by a classic deck chair, initially gives the impression that it was built by climate refugees or survival artists to protect themselves from impending catastrophes. Lounging Through the Flood is oriented towards the uncanny irrationality of a society involved in an environmental catastrophe that is taking place throughout the Mississippi system.

In the style of "ghost bikes" - bicycles painted white, reminiscent of cyclists in Midwest cities - the deck chair and rings are also painted white. In this case it is a special cream white from the Behr Paint company, a color that somebody gave the bizarre name "Climate Change" to. Behr's website suggests that this colour harmonises particularly well with "Rain Dance" and "Back to Nature". Lounging Through the Flood denounces this apocalyptic culture and offers a comfortable seat to watch it all sink... or just a vantage point.
 
This floating sculpture was installed at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, on the banks of Fort Defiance Park. The kick-off event included an outdoor film screening and a performance.
 
The organizers hope that the statue will be able to travel to other places of importance for the Anthropocene. Accordingly, the Confluence Ecologies exhibition at Southern Illinois University offered video footage of the sculpture in Cairo and a series of speculative model images focusing on future locations where the sculpture will travel.