Monday, April 25, 2016

Nothing Kills A River Like Concrete: Exhibit invitation

Concrete River: 
Memorial and Promise on the Kinnickinnic River

Photography by Eddee Daniel
Collaborative shrine and installation with Melanie Ariens

Alfons Gallery
1501 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee, WI

Opening reception: May 22, 1 - 3 pm. 
Artist's remarks: 2 pm.

I hope you'll join me and Melanie for this event. This will not be an ordinary photo exhibit. We plan an installation that will make the gallery feel like the concrete channel.

Exhibit runs through July 31

Gallery hours:
Wed, Thu, Fri, Sun 12 - 3 pm
and by appointment.

For more information: Alfons Gallery website.

Artist's Statement:

Nothing kills a river like concrete. How we treat rivers is suggestive of how we relate to the natural world in general.

Historically, rivers have been central to the growth of human civilization. This was as true at the founding of Milwaukee as it was in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates. Somehow, though, in the late twentieth century, our modern society lost sight of this vital truth. Milwaukee’s three rivers suffered many abuses, including habitat loss, pollution and dams.

But there’s nothing like pouring concrete into it, essentially transforming it into a drainage ditch, to signal the destruction of a river. Sections of other rivers and creeks in the Milwaukee River watershed were subject to this debasement, but the Kinnickinnic River suffered the most.

In the 1960s the KK, as it is still affectionately known, was straightened and lined with concrete in order to mitigate flooding problems in the surrounding neighborhood. Although at the time this dramatic action did provide some relief from the risk of flooding, it also compromised the river in significant ways. The concrete channel destroyed aquatic and riparian habitats, degraded water quality, and increased the risk of drowning during high water flows. Ironically, today even the original intent of the channelization has become outdated and ineffective for flood control.

Fortunately, for the river and for the community, attitudes have once again shifted. Caring for and revitalizing rivers has captured the public imagination. On the KK the current solution is a project to remove the concrete channel and restore the river to a more natural condition. When I was invited by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to document the project area I jumped at the opportunity. It’s exactly the kind of subject to which I am drawn.
The KK River Project, officially known as the Kinnickinnic River Corridor Neighborhood Plan, is a joint endeavor by the MMSD and the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center. The project area is located between 6th Street and 27th Street. (An earlier phase of the project, completed in 2012, removed the concrete channel downstream from 6th St.) The 50-ft. wide concrete channel is to be removed and a 200 ft.-wide rock-lined river channel created. This has necessitated the acquisition and deconstruction of 83 homes in order to accommodate the wider river. Although most of those houses had already been removed, I witnessed and documented the deconstruction of several of the few remaining.

Because the project is in its early phases, most of the images in this exhibit depict the river’s current state as a concrete channel. Furthermore, the installation itself is intended to reinforce the claustrophobic and treacherous conditions that exist. In order to represent the more hopeful future of the KK, I have invited environmental artist Melanie Ariens to collaborate with me on a water shrine to signify the restored vitality that is envisioned in the KK River Project.

See more of my KK River photos in my Flickr album

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bayou's State: dancing into oblivion

Andrea Burkholder wants you to know she's a cajun. She cooks a cajun dinner for the audience cum guests who arrive to participate in her creation, called Bayou's State. A spirit of collegiality and community ensues. After dinner everyone decamps to the theater to witness Burkholder as she performs a dance that is equal parts personal history, contemporary abstract movement, and theatrical treatment of a dramatic and tragic slow-motion environmental disaster. The environmental story relates the destruction of coastal wetlands in the Mississippi delta.

Afterwards, the people in the theater, who have taken on several collective identities during the evening, including dinner guests, audience, and witness, have become compatriots. They are invited back into the dining room for dessert, drinks and deconstruction of the evening's experiences.

I was privileged to collaborate with Andrea. My photographs of the KK River graced the dining area as well as the stage, and her set decoration was inspired by my series of fence images from the Little Menomonee River Superfund clean up site. I am kicking myself mightily for neglecting to take installation shots of the display, but here are a few that represent the performance (shot beforehand.)

Bayou's State took place at Danceworks over the weekend. I look forward to seeing what Burkholder has in store for future performance events!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Milwaukee Arts Barge makes a splash at the North End

Gallery night was characteristically fertile last night. I enjoyed a variety of exhibits, including William Zuback's moody figure studies at the Iron Horse Hotel, Pamela Anderson, Richard Taylor and Terrance Coffman at the Pfister, and too many folks to name at the Marshall Building.

The most surprising find for me last night was not at an established gallery but at the North End apartments. I'd been to their pop up gallery before and on a whim decided to check it out before heading to the usual places downtown.

The exhibit is titled Mobility Matters. According to the wall text panel, it explores "links between mobility, agency and value in Milwaukee." OK, so moving beyond the academic lingo, what really intrigued me was the 3-D map of Milwaukee and the idea of moving an "arts barge" around the community using its waterways. I'm all for "activating" the waterways, as they put it.

The map is a wonderfully graphic depiction of not only Milwaukee's lakefront and river system, but also its parks and open green spaces, which are represented in raised relief.

There is a Milwaukee Arts Barge website, which describes the project this way:

"Two of Milwaukee’s unique assets, the confluence of public waterways and its performing arts communities converge and newly engage the social fabric of the city through the construction of a floating performance space, the Milwaukee Arts Barge (MAB). The project utilizes Milwaukee‘s most underutilized public space, its network of rivers and lake, as a means to transform the city’s social, political, and cultural boundaries through the performing arts.

"MAB establishes a premiere public venue for the performing arts communities to heighten its exchanges with the city and its residents. It offers unique opportunities for both emergent and established arts communities to further propel the city as a space of civic engagement, exchange and creative place-making.

"The Milwaukee Arts Barge (MAB) develops new forms of agency for the performing arts communities to choose locations that have both creative and social impact. MAB allows these communities greater access to reimage the future of the city."

I look forward to hearing more about this project as it unfolds and hope to see a gallery of public art works floating up the Milwaukee River before long.

The Milwaukee Arts Barge is a project of the UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning. The North End is at 1551 No. Water Street. The display will be on view through June 30, 2016.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bayou's State: Dinner, dance and ecology

Bayou's State is a dance program about the Louisiana coastal wetlands that also includes a cajun dinner and--I'm pleased to announce--my photography!

Pictured above is Andrea Burkholder, dancer, choreographer and cajun chef extraordinaire. She has roots in Louisiana and has brought her exciting program to share with the Milwaukee community. For while one of the themes of the program is the sinking Mississippi delta another is building community and finding common ground.

Two dinner/dance programs: 
April 16, 6:00 pm and April 17, 5:00

Location: Danceworks, 1661 N. Water Street, Milwaukee

Buy tickets: Danceworks

Reservations required! 
(It is a dinner, not only a dance, after all. Gotta know how much to cook.)

Here is Burkholder's description of the program:
Choreographer and performer Andrea Chastant Burkholder explores her Cajun heritage as she travels through the declining Louisiana coastline, and it’s swamps and marshlands via an aerial net, bungee cords, and trapeze. Bayou’s State, an original aerial dance/theater piece reflecting on Louisiana’s coastal land loss as it relates to the local culture and environment.

With a focus on the creation of community and finding places of common ground, Andrea begins the evening by offering everyone a traditional Southern Louisiana dinner of homemade gumbo, red beans and rice, greens, and cornbread. Ingredients are provided by Springdale Farm, Rolling Meadows Sorghum Mill, and other local farmers and gardeners. Andrea and her Cajun father, Lafayette, LA native, Lloyd Chastant, will prepare the dinner and serve it at Danceworks, just steps from the Milwaukee River.

The dinner will be followed by a 50-minute performance event that will include storytelling, aerial work, dance, theater, and photographs as set design by Eddee Daniel. Inspired by her own family history, bayou travels, and readings, Andrea navigates the issues of rising coastal waters, disappearing marshland and barrier islands, man versus nature, and increasing water salinity. She uses Louisiana’s experience as a metaphor for the many places where waters define a way of life, but are being threatened.

I was delighted when Andrea approached me to collaborate on this remarkable program. Her set designs were inspired by my construction fence series of photographs (above right). In order to make a connection between Louisiana and Milwaukee, she has asked me to display prints from my Kinnickinnic River project series during the dinner portion of the event. She also has asked me to participate in the audience talk back after the show each night.

I hope you'll join me and Andrea for this dynamic presentation.

For more information, go to Andrea's website.

Sneak preview:
Kinnickinnic River Channel, 2015