Completed in early 2019, my experimental nonfiction short film “Grassland” has screened internationally in festival and microcinema spaces. It premiered in the Experiments in Cinema festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico before going on to the Twisted Oyster Film and Media Festival in Kefalia, Greece; Cineautopsia in Bogotá, Colombia; the Artists’ Forum Festival of the Moving Image in New York City; and, upcoming in 2020, the Black Maria Film Festival and Big Muddy Film Festival. The piece also picked up the Juror’s Citation at the Black Maria, Best Cinematography at the Artists’ Forum, and an honorable mention from the Los Angeles Experimental Forum. As an inter/extradisciplinary artist who only occasionally makes films, I’m deeply honored to have my work celebrated in these venues.
National TLC Service publications, brochures, and banners are on display as part of the reading room for Hot Spots: Radioactivity and the Landscape at the Krannert Art Museum, running from October 17, 2019 – March 21, 2020. The exhibition, originally curated by Joan Linder and Jennie Lamensdorf for the University at Buffalo, features work by Naomi Bebo, Jeremy Bolen, Michael Brill and Safdar Abidi, Edward Burtynsky, Erich Berger and Mari Keto, Ludovico Centis, Elizabeth Demaray, Nina Elder, Isao Hashimoto, Adele Henderson, Abbey Hepner, Eve Andrée Laramée, Cynthia Madansky and Angelika Brudniak, Amie Siegel, Robert del Tredici, Claudia X. Valdes, and Will Wilson.
For more information, see Krannert Art Museum News.
“A People’s Atlas of the Nuclear United States” is a digital public humanities project that documents and interprets the relational geographies of nuclear materials used by the United States military. The Atlas is structured to articulate scalar relationships – from the planetary to the corporeal – and to simultaneously present cartographic, textual and image-based information in order to foster active interpretation on the part of its users.
The pilot phase of the online project focuses on the state of Colorado, which contains sites and processes representing all stages of the nuclear cycle. Through the initial geographic lens of Colorado, the Atlas seeks to infuse nuclear public policy and public memory discussions with humanistic forms of inquiry that address the materiality of nuclear production, political history, and environmental ethics. More than another clickable map, the Atlas articulates and interprets local embodied experiences, regional material-environmental politics, and their global and intergenerational consequences, thereby making visible what remains a hidden legacy not only of environmental devastation but also of community resilience.
The multiple functions of the Atlas are inherently interdisciplinary and call for collaboration among scholars, designers, digital humanists, and environmental and community organizations. Questions traditionally bound to specific disciplines are better answered using a broad set of lenses: How can geographical and historical inquiry into the nuclear weapons complex precipitate new insights into the relationships between location, security, harm, intervention, and public action? How can methods developed by geographers, artists, and digital humanists stimulate public memory work that is both more engaging and more nuanced? What forms of interactivity, interface, and representation allow stakeholders and scholars to collaboratively address the past and future of nuclear sites?
he project will use the Scalar publishing platform created by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture based at USC, with a custom interface design by Byse Studio. It is also supported organizationally by NuLab: The Center for Maps, Texts, and Networks at Northeastern University.
Download full project description as PDF: PeoplesAtlasProposal.pdf
Sarah Kanouse and Shiloh Krupar, A People’s Atlas of the Nuclear United States, in progress
The National Toxic Land/Labor Conservation Service is an art and research project taking the form of a wishful federal agency dedicated to the vigilant detection and continual exposition of the domestic effects of the American nuclear state. Established by fictive legislation in 2011, the Service is charged with developing cultural programs that address domestic issues of environmental justice, labor, and human rights related to U.S. military activities. Freely mixing satire and sincerity, we devise speculative projects using an aesthetic of bureaucratic camp. Our primary initiative is the creation of the speculative National Cold War Monuments and Environmental Heritage Trail. Additionally, we conduct tours, site visits, and reviews of Cold War heritage sites as they are currently interpreted, and we present widely on our organizational mission and activities.
Visit the National TLC Service Website for full documentation.
Official Agency Video
Performative Lecture (Excerpt)
Denver, CO – Denver Public Library, “Facing Rocky Flats,” August 26-October 31, 2018
Boulder, CO – Canyon Gallery, “Facing Rocky Flats,” April 27-June 10, 2018
Colorado Springs, CO – IDEA Space, “Atomic Landscapes,” March 21-May 7, 2016
Boston, MA – Proof Gallery, “Boston Does Boston 9,” January 23-February 20, 2016
Albuquerque, NM – Central Features, “Sarah Kanouse: Show Up Show Down,” February 6-12, 2015 (solo)
New York, NY – 41 Cooper Gallery, “Monument to Cold War Victory,” 2014
Champaign, IL – Figure One Gallery, “National TLC Service Mobile Field Office,” 2013
Davenport, IA – Figge Art Museum, “University of Iowa Faculty Biennial,” 2013
Fairfax, VA – George Mason University, “EcoCultures,” 2011
Brooklyn, NY – Momenta Arts, “Institute for Wishful Thinking,” 2011
Sarah Kanouse and Shiloh Krupar, “The National Toxic Land/Labor Conservation Service,” interdisciplinary arts/research platform, 2011-2016
Crab Orchard calls itself “a unique place to experience nature.” As the only wildlife refuge in the United States whose mission includes industry and agriculture alongside conservation and recreation, Crab Orchard claims a harmonious balance between uses and users that strike many as incompatible. This story of harmony is maintained through the production and enforcement of physical, visual, and political boundaries — boundaries that, once crossed, quickly dissolve. This essayistic documentary maps the filmmaker’s discovery of Crab Orchard’s complex and hybrid nature. When a request by a security guard to put away the camera leads to a surprise visit by the FBI, the filmmaker begins a journey to uncover the refuge’s history and understand its contradictory present. Crab Orchard’s status as a contaminated refuge emerges less as an exception and more an example of the power and perils of “nature” as we understand it today. From its use by historic Native Americans as a source of food, its continued role in an economically vulnerable region, and the use of its polluted lake as a water source, the film explores themes of invisibility, loss, and shared but profoundly unequal risk. Assembled from documents, found footage, and conversations with activists, writers, and local residents, the film meditates on the persistence of history, the creation of knowledge, the limits of representation, and the commonplace of environmental hazard. “Around Crab Orchard” ultimately argues for forms of storytelling, image-making, and activism that cross existing conceptual boundaries to respond to the full complexity of the social and ecological landscape.
Emerald Earth Film Festival, Eugene, 2020
UnionDocs, New York, 2014
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2014
Banff Centre, Alberta, 2014
Appalachian State University, 2014
Ohio University, 2014
Headroom Microcinema/University of Iowa, 2014
Furthermore Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2013
Cabaret Voltaire/ETH Zurich, Zurich, 2013
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2013
Interrobang Film Festival, 2013
Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles, 2013
Southside Projections, Chicago, 2013
Athens International Film and Video Festival, 2013
University at Buffalo, 2013
35th Big Muddy Film Festival, 2013
Best Iowa-Produced Film, Interrobang Film Festival
John Michaels Award for social justice filmmaking, Big Muddy Film Festival
Juror’s Special Mention, Big Muddy Film Festival
Sarah Kanouse, “Around Crab Orchard”, HD video, 69 min, 2013. Contact me for private link to full-length video.
While the global reach of the United States military is well-known, the ways it has shaped the interior geography of the country is more obscure—even to many Americans. Get a fresh perspective on the Heartland by touring the domestic sites that helped to produce America’s military might, and you may catch a glimpse of the nation’s future.
The centerpiece of your four day/three night stay in the Heartland states of Missouri and Illinois will be the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, a fascinating and lovely natural area created on a former US Army ammunition plant. A private defense contractor still uses the refuge to manufacture munitions, and the thorough clean-up of contamination stemming from these and other industrial operations is ongoing. Crab Orchard boasts recreation facilities for boating, hunting, fishing, hiking and wildlife observation. Crab Orchard will be your base for day trips into other military sites in scenic southern Illinois, including civil war sites, the ruins of a World War II prisoner of war facility, and a military boot camp for convicts. You’ll fly into and out of St. Louis, affording side trips to the Museum of Westward Expansion, Scott Air Force Base and the corporate headquarters of Monsanto, the agribusiness giant whose herbicide Agent Orange was used as a weapon in the Vietnam War.
Beijing, China – Homeshop, 2011
Sarah Kanouse, “America’s Heart of Hearts Tour,” in Dan S. Wang and Stephanie Rothenberg’s “The Journey West,” site-specific intervention in Beijing, China, 2011
“America Ponds” is a 46-minute alternative audio tour of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge created for Stories in Reserve, a box set of three artist-produced audio tours of unusual sites in North America released by the Temporary Travel Office in 2010.
Located in southernmost Illinois, Crab Orchard is the result of a half-century of economic development efforts directed at this sparsely populated, rural part of the state. Its three lakes were designed and built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, and the Refuge itself was established in 1947 on the site of a shuttered munitions plant. Today, Crab Orchard’s mission includes hosting industrial facilities, and companies producing everything from highlighters to high-caliber ammunition have taken up residence in the wildlife refuge. Fifty years of heavy manufacturing have taken a heavy toll on the place. Since the 1980s, Crab Orchard has been on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List—better known as Superfund—which outlines and monitors a clean-up process for the most severely contaminated sites in the United States. Rather than concealing Crab Orchard’s resolutely cultural and political existence, this tour highlights it. Traveling here is an invitation to think through complexity, to feel our way through contradiction, and to come up with a concept more honest and useful than ‘nature’ to describe the myriad ways we exist with and within the non-human world.
Download entire audio tour as zipped mp3s: America Ponds
Exhibitions and Presentations
New York, NY – CUNY Graduate Center, James Gallery, 2011
Davenport, IA – Figge Art Museum, “University of Iowa Faculty Biennial,” 2011
Los Angeles, CA – Betalevel, 2010
Palos Heights, IL – Trinity Christian College, Seerveld Gallery, 2010
Chicago, IL – Green Lantern Gallery, 2010
Vancouver, Canada – Emily Carr University READ Bookstore, 2010
2010 New York Art Book Fair, MOMA PS1
Half Letter Press
Chicago, IL – Museum of Contemporary Art, Artist’s Books and Sound (in process)
Sarah Kanouse, “America Ponds,” 46-minute audio tour released on CD and mp3, 2010