For nearly two hundred years, the figure of the naturalist—the enthusiastic observer of birds, soils, insects, plants, and animals—set the bar for dedicated, non-professional scholarship of the non-human world. With his sketchbook, butterfly net, binoculars, and field guides, the naturalist went “into the field” to learn nature’s secrets through patient observation. But recent scholarship in the sciences and humanities has revealed that “the field” cannot be considered apart from the human world that shapes and imagines it. Taking its cue from the study of social nature, “A Post-Naturalist Field Kit” is an art project that updates the figure of the naturalist for the exploration of post-natural urban landscapes. The project includes artifacts for exploring environmental issues in the city—from specimen jars to do-it-yourself air quality monitors and lead contamination tests— along with activity cards that refuse to draw lines between social, economic, and environmental issues. Drawing on Fluxus game kits and recent environmental art, “A Post-Naturalist Field Kit” offers tools for the embodied exploration of urban social ecologies. This article describes and contextualizes the project in light of relevant areas of creative practice and geographical thought.
Kanouse, Sarah, “A Post-Naturalist Field Kit: tools for the embodied exploration of social ecologies,” in Sébastien Cacquard, William Cartwright, and Laurene Vaughan, eds. Mapping Environmental Issues in the City (Heidelberg: Springer, 2011), 160-177.
“A Post-Naturalist Field Kit” updates the naturalist’s toolbox for the exploration of the social ecologies of urban landscapes. The project includes artifacts for exploring environmental issues in the city — from specimen jars to do-it-yourself air quality monitors — along with cards that prompt users to consider relationships among social, economic, and ecological issues.
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.
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
Region From Below: Power Plants maps the coal and corn carbon economies in the Midwest region. It features four pop-out stories detailing alternatives to the corn- and coal-shed and spotlighting places where coal and corn come together. The original map is installed with historical maps that describe other geographical imaginations of the region. In addition to the maps, a take-home ‘quiz’ asks questions from the factual to the fanciful to help readers re-orient themselves to these resources.
Going Downstate” is a counter-map of the Illinois state prison system with photographs (by Lauren Shrensel-Zadikow) and information on tax structure, costs, per capital income, traveling distance and demographics.