Grassland

The collaged image of a monument to the Sand Creek Massacre is defaced with an oil-like substance and rises over a cutout from a Frederick Remington painting over a fracking pad in the background.
Still from Grassland (2019)

The experimental nonfiction film Grassland uses stop-motion animation, live action footage, text fragments, and expressive sound to excavate the stratigraphic layers of belief, ecology, practice, and geology that form a northeastern Colorado landscape. Carved out of decimated ranch lands during the Dust Bowl, the grassland is both a conservation zone and a working landscape. Cattle grazing, nuclear missiles, hydraulic fracturing, and wind power generation co-exist within a few miles of each other. Less explication than essay, the film locates the grassland in historic and geologic time, ranging over changing frameworks of law, ideology, and cosmology, variable and contradictory human practices, and the material and geological forces of the land itself. Meditative original footage of the grassland merges with collage animations created from diagrams, drawings, and found photography to portray the refuge’s subterranean activities, from well drilling to missile storage to soil sedimentation. The resulting nineteen-minute film is a poetic and unsettling portrait of a complex, evolving place.

Excerpt

Credits

Sarah Kanouse, “Grassland,” experimental nonfiction film, HD video, 19 minutes 15 second, 2019.

Sound design and mix by Jacob Ross

Screenings

Strikethrough indicates Coronavirus cancellations

Nightingale Cinema, Chicago, IL, May 21

Cellular Cinema, Minneapolis, May 17

NW Film Center, Portland, May 14

Emerald Earth Film Festival, Eugene, May 13

Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles, April 11

Black Maria Film Festival 39th Annual Festival Tour, dates/locations TBA

Big Muddy Film Festival, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, February 2020

Artists’ Forum Festival of the Moving Image, New York, NY, October 18, 2019

Public Space One, Iowa City, September 30, 2019

Rhizome DC, Washington DC, October 12, 2019

Cineautopsia, Bogotá, Colombia, August 17, 2019.

Twisted Oyster Film and Media Festival, Kefalonia, Greece, May 9, 2019.

Experiments in Cinema, Albuquerque, April 18, 2019

Awards

Juror’s Citation, Black Maria Film Festival, Hoboken, NJ

Best Cinematography, Artists’ Forum Festival of the Moving Image, New York, NY

Honorable Mention, Experimental Forum, Los Angeles, CA.

Native Resurgence

Detail of black and white map
Native Resurgence Map Graphic

Native Resurgence” is a map and primer to sites of Native American resistance and ingenuity in the upper Midwest since the 1970s. Our goals are threefold. First, we want to place Native stories firmly in the center of our narrative; they too often occupy a position peripheral to the concerns of urban progressives and radicals. Second, we want to highlight successful examples of recent Native activism and tribal development, since stories of all-too-real victimization and discrimination tend to be the ones that most readily spring to the minds of politically conscious non-Natives. Finally, we hope that focusing on Midwestern Native politics might productively unsettle familiar narratives of Chicago’s urban processes, placing them in relation to a longer history of colonialism and dispossession, but also endurance and evolution.

From longstanding organizations such as the American Indian Center of Chicago—the nation’s oldest urban Indian center—to fleeting events such as the American Indian Chicago Conference of 1961 and the occupations at Chicago Indian Village, Belmont Harbor and Argonne National Laboratories in the early 1970s, Chicago itself has a rich history of Native survivance–the joint processes of survival and resistance. The implications of this history—what it enables us to do in a historical present haunted by racism and colonialism—become more clear when Chicago is de-centered from its position as the de facto capital of the Midwest and re-situated in a larger regional context. Not only will this dissolve the false dichotomy between urban and rural but, for our purposes, it allows us to begin seeing this land—from the Calumet River to Lac du Flambeau—for what it is: Indian Country.

Download as PDF: Native Resurgence Map

Credit

Kanouse, Sarah and Nicholas Brown, “Native Resurgence,” original print map collecting sites of Native American “survivance” since 1970, published in AREA: Art Research Education Activism, Vol. 9, Fall 2009 (special insert). Also selected for “10 AREAs/5 Years,” a publication retrospective for the US Social Forum

Driving East

Driving East

Driving East investigates how myths of American mobility developed during Manifest Destiny continue to operate today. We use the familiar form of the road trip to rethink how the present-day landscape was forged by the linked processes of white westward migration on the one hand and Indian removal and resistance on the other. By engaging with archival records, contemporary stories, images, and ephemera, we hope to uncover, recover, expose, and re-present traces of these histories still resonant, if barely legible, in the landscapes and politics of a place.  As white people, we believe these processes continue to shape the physical, social, and political spaces we inhabit today, most obviously through place names, museums, and memorials but more subtly through unconscious patterns of speech and behavior that reveal a great deal about how different groups of people imagine, inhabit and move through the United States.

Note: This project evolved into the photo-text book, Re-Collecting Black Hawk.

Exhibitions

Milwaukee, WI – Walker’s Point Center for the Arts

Credit

Nicholas Brown and Sarah Kanouse, “Driving East Through Indian Country,” video and photographic installation, self-published artists’ book on the commemorative landscapes of Westward Expansion, 2007.

Chasing Billy Caldwell

Part biography of an obscure early Chicago settler, part meditation on history and memory, identity and loyalty, landscape and amnesia.

 

Select Screenings

Ann Arbor, MI – The Gallery Project

San Francisco, CA – San Francisco Art Institute

New York, NY – Barnard College, WCA Video Shorts Festival

Carbondale, IL – Southern Illinois University

Credit

Sarah Kanouse, “Chasing Billy Caldwell,” HDV video, 7 min 44 sec, 2006