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“Mississippi. An Anthropocene River” Field Station #1: Sediment, Settlement, Sentiment: The Machinic River

April 18, 2019

image © Andrea Carlson

Is the origin of Mississippi River natural or is it man-made?

Mississippi. An Anthropocene River takes the concept of the Anthropocene – the period of history during which humans have been the dominant influence on climate and the environment – into the field. The project investigates the Mississippi River as an exemplary landscape of global environmental change. Until November 2019, five field stations located along the banks of the river will analyze these changes as they manifest in the region.

The first field station, entitled Sediment, Settlement, Sentiment: The Machinic River, is situated along the upper region of the river and examines the Mississippi as an infrastructural space. In order to make the Mississippi navigable, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have attempted to regulate the river by installing infrastructural measures like locks and dams to manage its flow for almost two centuries. These interventions have been regarded as projects of control and demonstrate the power humans exercise over nature. Sediment, Settlement, Sentiment: The Machinic River questions the assumptions of control and mastery that are inherent to these infrastructural projects.

This year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the long-term process of determining the future of the oldest and northernmost locks and dams in the Mississippi River, especially those situated around the Twin Cities. The possibility of dam removal has already energized public discourse around potential outcomes for the river, highlighting the many diverse attachments that form around a river as iconic and as large as the Mississippi. How do such attachments form? What implications do these debates have for communities and infrastructure downriver? At this Field Station, experiential, experimental, and imaginative projects that engage sound, film, documentation, research, public engagement and storytelling take up these questions and many more.

To stay updated on the activities of Field Station 1, visit anthropocene-curriculum.org and see our previous blog on the project.

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