Meandering Mississippi. Map by Harold N. Fisk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1944 | Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River
Mississippi. An Anthropocene River explores the vast but patchy area of the Mississippi in its changing spatio-temporal formations. Its aim is to make this archival landscape legible as a critical zone of habitation and long-term interaction between humans and the environment. Until November 2019, several interdisciplinary groups of researchers, artists and stakeholders from civil society will investigate the river basin to develop local approaches to issues of global change and together will forge new methods of transdisciplinary research and education. Field station teams will facilitate new practices for exploratory research and education that will then be tight together by a downstream River Journey.
The Mississippi River Basin is an immense space continually being reshaped by human activities. As a central axis through the continent and a catchment for ecological, industrial and social realities it presents a multifaceted topography of the Anthropocene, the geological epoch of humankind. It designates a peculiar heterogeneous space in which genuinely anthropocenic problems, possibilities and hopes intersect in a unique way, triangulating humans, ecosystems and the advancement of economic-technological infrastructures.
The river’s meandering path has carved out an iconic landscape in US mythology and has become a symbol for human impact. Barely a river but more of a floodplain before it was massively dredged in the 20th century, the Mississippi river has become a major industrial and agricultural corridor that cuts through the “heartland” of the United States. Through time, the peculiar river and its ecology has evolved as a constantly shifting ecosystem, a catchment of cultures, a dividing line, a water highway for resources and goods, and a sink for pollutants. From the logging and mining zones in the Upper River area to the high technology and petrochemical centers in the Delta; from the industrial agricultural landscapes of the Midwest to the “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico; from the historic transportation network enabling the egregious trade of human forced labor to the social injustices of poverty and deindustrialization today—the Mississippi is a symptom and object of investigation for the radical impact humans inflict on the Earth.
On June 20, 2018, the project was inaugurated with a symposium at University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum. Key contributors to the project presented experimental case studies and model projects linked to the project Mississippi. An Anthropocene River, asking: How can the Anthropocene become a concept that activates the way we engage with global changes in their regional articulations?
The project’s final phase will be prepared and finalized at a “Midway Meeting” in St. Louis in spring 2019 and subsequently presented and discussed at a public event.