September 19, 2019

October events, exhibitions highlight culture of life along the Mississippi

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Humans have a multiplicity of effects on the planet and its environment. Understanding, discussing, and ultimately improving that many-faceted relationship is the goal of a project coming to Southern Illinois University Carbondale in October.

The series of exhibitions and events is a multi-state effort aimed at examining the culture, ecology and economy along the Mississippi River. Carbondale and SIU is one of the “field stations” designated for the effort, which will bring interactive, multi-media presentations to the city starting this month, with the main exhibition and series of events hitting campus Oct. 11-13. Events and exhibitions also will involve Carbondale Community Arts, 304 W. Walnut St.  Carbondale.

Exhibitions, events cover variety of topics

The exhibition, held at the University Museum, will run from Oct. 11 through Nov. 30 and include 15 artists collaborating on a collection of works that articulate stories and perspectives concerning the Anthropocene from the region between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers framing the region on its east and west sides.

The three days of events kicking off the exhibition include:

Friday, Oct. 11

  • Confluence Ecologies Reception, 4 p.m. at the SIU Museum, Faner Hall.

Talks and gallery tour. Open to the public. Refreshments will be available.

Saturday, Oct. 12

  • “Commodities, Economies and Politics of Care,” 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Meet at Carbondale Community Arts at 8:45 a.m. to board a bus bound for learning about and envisioning the Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) Forest, a 300-million-year-old fossil forest that lies with the Southern Illinois coalbeds. Paleontologists will lead the effort. Ride a bus to the location, and then walk, talk and have a box lunch before returning to Carbondale Community Arts. Reservations required.

  • “Constructing a Politics and Economics of Care,” 2-4:30 p.m. at Carbondale Community Arts.

A panel discussion, presentations and conversations with Carbondale Spring, entrepreneurs and chefs, activists and others who are fine-tuning approaches to creating economies and ethics that elevate the needs of both people and ecosystems.

Asian carp are considered to be an invasive nuisance in the rivers, but they are also an overlooked delicious and nutritious source of protein. Tonight, they’re on the menu. Enjoy a convivial dinner hosted by the North American Climate and Forest Convergence. Reservations required.

Sunday, Oct. 13

  • “Shaping the Wetlands.”

Depart at 11 a.m. for a day-long consideration of backwaters, meanders and floodways that starts at CCA, and then leaves by bus for a circuit into the ancient and present ecosystems of the Mississippi/Ohio rivers confluence.

The itinerary includes Heron Pond, a remnant of the once predominant wetlands in this region, with naturalists, followed by a visit to the present confluence at Fort Defiance State Park. Enjoy a performance by Geissler/Sann and Brian Kirkbride and the inaugural launch of “Lounging Through the Flood,” a floating sculpture and platform for contemplating climate change.

The day also includes a demonstration of fluvial geomorphology by Little River Research and Design. Box lunches included. Reservations required.

Carbondale Community Arts plays role

A related exhibition will run Sept. 18-Oct. 16 at Carbondale Community Arts. Titled “Seasonal Pulse,” it will include video, interactive mapping, models, painting and drawings by local designers and artists. A reception there is set for 4-7 p.m. Oct. 4.

Sarah Lewison, associate professor or radio, television and digital media, said the effort stemmed from the group Deep Time Chicago, a group of visual artists, mapmakers and scientists commissioned by Berlin based institutions Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the House of World Cultures  to create an on-the-ground three-day seminar that showcases human impact on the land and water in the Southern Illinois Region.

“The exhibitions we are creating are unique for their engagement with art, ecology, science and landscape. Many of the projects involve interdisciplinary research or collaboration with people outside of the field of art,” Lewison said.

Lewison’s part of the project involves research on the invasive species Asian carp, and finding ways to mitigate their harmful impacts on the environment and economy.

Lewison is working with Andrew Yang of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to create a campaign aimed at removing the stigma of the fish as a great source of tasty food. Part of that effort includes a short video on “How to Eat a Carp.” The effort will include a billboard on Faner Hall, as well as at other locations.

Effort will highlight overlooked culture

Lewison said the effort also will bring to light the lives of people who live Southern Illinois region, which has been an important source of raw materials for industrial and societal growth, but hasn’t always benefitted equally.

“I’m sincere about the idea that the rural zones are at times are invisible, and I’m thrilled to bring SIU and this area to the stage during this effort,” Lewison said. “This is where the coal, the wood, the salt, the oil has come from. Those products have gone elsewhere to make something great, and sometimes the people here are left trying to figure out what to do. We want to reflect on that and see what we can learn as we move forward.”

The multi-disciplinary approach of the events and exhibitions are another strength, she said.

“Everyone learns from all senses, but as you become trained you get taught to limit the number of them you use to learn,” she said. “We want to reawaken our ability to observe; not just with our intellect, but with our feelings, our skin and our taste buds.”