Cite as

Ludwig, Jason and Tim Schütz. 2019. "Minnestoa / Wisconsin Field Station." In Fortun, Kim and Scott Knowles. 2019. In Quotidian Anthropocenes. On Disaster-STS Network. In review. https://disaster-sts-network.org/content/mississippi-river-anthropocene-minnesota-wisconsin-field-station/essay

Background

Along the Upper Mississippi River, engineering has taken the form of extensive infrastructural interventions into the river, including the building of 29 locks and dams and ongoing dredging to maintain a nine-foot deep navigation channel for ships carrying agricultural and industrial products. These interventions have been figured as projects of control, demonstrative of expertise and the power of humans to govern nature. Field Station 1 begins from the premise that past infrastructural interventions into the Mississippi River as well as proposed future projects are better understood as experiments, ones engaged under conditions of uncertainty and therefore inherently speculative.

The region including the headwaters is an expansive tapestry of lakes, marshes, streams and rivers consisting of native lands, state parks, a large urban conglomeration, and rural municipalities. Understanding the Mississippi River as a site of speculations recognizes it to be a space of power. Field Station 1 connects projects and initiatives that conceptualize the Mississippi as a site of experimentation, speculation, and ongoing struggle in order to think about the communities, places, materials, creatures, interventions and imaginations that coalesce or disperse around the river. It asks who gets to experiment with the river; how experimentation figures into larger projects of state-building, social justice, and self-determination; how climate change can affect local decision-making; and how the flow of the river links upriver and downriver in complex and nonlinear ways. Field Station 1 reflects on the region as assemblage, characterized by overlapping experiences of space, time, water, land, precarity, opportunity, and possibility across multispecies relations. In so doing, it invites creative engagement with diverse experiences of the region.

This year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a long-term public process of determining the future of the oldest and northernmost locks and dams in the Mississippi River, those situated in the Twin Cities. The possibility of dam removal has already energized publics around imagined outcomes in ways that highlight the many and diverse attachments that form around a river as iconic and as large as the Mississippi. How do such attachments form? How do they gather force and produce change—or prevent it? What implications do these debates have for communities and infrastructure downriver? At Field Station 1, experiential, experimental, and imaginative projects that engage sound, film, documentation, research, public engagement and storytelling take up these questions, and many more.

Public process website for the Field Station can be found here.

About the Quotitidan Anthropocene Project

The Quotidian Anthropocene project explores how the Anthropocene is playing out on the ground in different settings. The aim is to create both...Read more

Tactics for Quotidian Anthropocenes

The field station relies on visualizing as well as spatializing data. Installations and artworks are animated by the question of how abstract temporal and planetary scales can be turned into an embodied, public and quotidian experience. 

Projects and Initiatives

Meander

"Meander is a commissioned permanent public artwork for CHS Field, a new baseball stadium designed by Snow Kreilich Architects in the Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. It consists of fifteen digitally enhanced sculptural pillars, each capped with glass lanterns containing controllable RGB LED lights. An exploration in data spatialization, Meander’s pillars illustrate over two hundred years of historical information about the changing geometry of the Mississippi River, which runs a couple blocks from the site. The size, shape, and curvature of the pillars are a three-dimensional representation of historical maps of the Mississippi River created by Zebulon Pike in the early 1800’s to Google Maps satellite imagery. In addition, data remotely collected from the river will programmatically control the light contained by the glass lanterns. Meander illustrates how data spatialization processes merge with a commitment to ecology, reimagining public spaces, and the fostering new kinds of interactive engagement with public audiences."

Phase Change

"Phase Change creatively re-presents the effects of climate change through an engaging and dynamic spatial construction of melting ice. The ephemeral installation consists of 12,000 pounds of ice harvested from Lake Calhoun (Dakota name “Bde Maka Ska”) in March 2016 and stored passively from March through June. This sculptural ice form faces a lattice of infra-red lamps that are programmed to fluctuate based on data derived from climate change research. The heat produced by the lights corresponds to historical and projected climate change data and melts the sculpture according to three different climate change scenarios: a pre-industrial simulation that depicts climatic conditions as if the industrial era never happened; the present day scenario; and the “worst case” scenario that demonstrates the effects of the most extreme climate change forecasts."

Resources

Activities during the Anthropocene River Journey

Sept. 1-3 , Lake Itasca and Sept. 20-21, Minnesota/Wisconsin

  • Dams, Fish and Humans: screenings, speculative talks, storyboards, discussions, and artistic installations at the Illuminate the Lock program I Upper Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam

  • Contesting the De-industrial Futures of the Upper Mississippi: documentaries, walking tours, exhibitions I Upper Harbor Terminal

  • Listening to the Mississippi: Listening Station of hydrophonic sounds installed at the banks of the Mississippi River, Monika Haller I multiple sights

  • Anthropocene Film Residency: John Kim, Andrea Carlson, Tia-Simone Gardner, Jenny Schmidt

  • Weisman Writer in Residence: Mississippi, an Anthropocene Story, Jen Caruso