Anthropocene Driftwas a 18-month research-creation platform sited in the Driftless area of Wisconsin and spreading into Western Illinois undertaken in collaboration with Nicholas Brown and Ryan Griffis as part of Mississippi: An Anthropocene River. The territory is characterized by two distinct landscapes: the Driftless Area, defined by scenic hills and bluffs and spared from the effects of the Wisconsinan Glaciation, and the Corn Belt, defined by endless expanses of predominantly flat and rectilinear fields of monocrops. The geological histories that produced the striking topographical differences between these landscapes made colonization, settlement, and agriculture play out differently, which affects how these regions may far in the climate and cultural changes of the present and near-futures.
Anthropocene Drift produced three public-facing projects. Field Guides to the Anthropocene Drift is a series of artful guidebooks, each responding to a different cultural and/or scientific aspect of the Anthropocene in this geographical region. The second component of the Field Station is Over the Levee, Under the Plow, a four day mobile symposium that positions the agro-engineering of rural America within the broader framework of settler colonialism in order to attend to the historical, political and epistemic roots of the agricultural and environmental crisis. The third is Moraine/Terminal, a mobile gathering space and library that accompanied the symposium on its winding journey. Unfolding in small towns around the Mississippi River, the program brings together agroecologists, Native leaders, local residents, international scholars for a series of events, tours, and small group discussions to better understand the origins of the present landscape and to build alliances for more just and sustainable alternatives.
In the winter and spring of 2018 I found myself frustrated equally by the annual Republican call to defund the NEH and NEA and by the contortions many scholars and cultural workers perform to be acceptable to a narrow range of what is acceptable, I approached Art Journal Open to convene a forum on the state of “support” for the arts and humanities today – broadly defined. “Beyond Survival” began as an open call for reflections on the state of arts funding in the United States as it actually manifests today. I hoped to facilitate a conversation that would go beyond shoring up the inadequate conditions of the present to consider the social functions fulfilled—and left unfilled—by the current landscape of support, as well as what emerging forms of artistic, intellectual, and political agency can be taken to affirmatively shape more desirable conditions in the future.
In October 2018, Art Journal Open published nearly twenty five responses grouped into four thematic categories: Beyond Neoliberalism, In Whose Interest?, Precarity and Potential, and Models and Case Studies. We invited four respondents to develop slightly longer position papers, which were released in Spring 2019. Over a year after the project was conceived I revisited the original prompt and the responses in a short essay in terms of the socio-ecological urgencies of the climate emergency.
I was fortunate to receive several invitations this spring and summer to contribute reviews and position papers to several interesting arts-academic web publications. The relatively short form and swift turnaround time is a welcome change from my usual pace of writing and making, where individual projects usually require at least year. Taken together, they do a pretty good job capturing my current preoccupation and commitments: that the climate emergency is now at the heart of everything and that it cannot be addressed without grappling deeply with violent epistemologies of colonial and white supremacist thought.
The catalogue to the competition and exhibition “Monument to Cold War Victory,” conceived by Yevgeniy Fiks and Stamatina Gregory, was released September 30 from The Cooper Union. Distributed through SPD, the catalog documents all winning entries, including the National TLC Service’s National Cold War Monuments and Environmental Heritage Trail, and features essays by Yevgeniy Fiks and Stamatina Gregory, Boris Groys, Nina Khrushcheva, and Joes Segal. Other artists include Yuri Avvakumov, Aziz + Cucher, Kim Beck, Constantin Boym, Camel Collective (Anthony Graves and Carla-Herrera Prats), Sasha Chavchavadze, Christoph Draeger, Deyson Golbert, Francis Hunger, Szabolcs KissPál, Angelo Plessas, Lisi Raskin, Dread Scott, Dolsy & Kant Smith, Société Réaliste, and Michael Wang.
Fiks, Yevgeniy and Stamatina Gregory, eds. Monument to Cold War Victory. New York: The Cooper Union, 2018: 100-103.
“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?
Re-collecting Black Hawk is a book-length, image-text essay exploring the cultural and political landscapes of the Midwest. It brings together roughly one hundred seventy photographs of historical markers and monuments, organizations, sports teams, consumer products, businesses, parks, subdivisions and other places that reference the 19th century Sauk leader Makataimeshekiakiak, more commonly known as Black Hawk. These photographs are arranged geographically and organized into chapters by state (Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin). Each image is paired with an appropriated text drawn from sources as wide ranging as press releases and scholarly histories, government reports and advertisements, and poetry and recipes published in tribal newspapers. Interwoven throughout are contributions by and interviews with activists, scholars, and tribal officials, who, in some cases, reflect on the image-text strategy and, in other cases, ground it in specific, current struggles around decolonization, self-determination, and cultural revitalization.
Re-Collecting Black Hawk is both a call and an attempt to practice landscape differently. It proceeds by staging a series of encounters between image and text, each with different implications in the realm of political imagination. The book’s title suggests holds a double meaning. In the most literal sense, it connotes the remembering of something past. The hyphen, however, hints at another, more active meaning. To re-collect is to gather again or to collect anew in the present. Or, following Bruno Latour, to re-collect is to reassemble Black Hawk to account the disconnect between past and present, absence and presence.
Released May 2015 by Pittsburgh University Press. See book website for excerpts and more information.