“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. The project both indulges and subverts the conventions of the official audio tour, combining a confident white male voiceover with field recordings and abstracted and heavily processed environmental sounds.
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.
Track nine, Wolf Creek Road
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.
Sarah Kanouse, “America Ponds,” 46-minute audio tour released on CD and mp3, 2010