Arts & Culture

The Anthropocene River Journey

Steven Diehl, Contributor


The Anthropocene River Journey is a collaborative series of projects by artists, academics and scientists from around the world organized by our River Semester here at Augsburg in conjunction with Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW, pronounced HA-KAY-VAY). HKW is a cultural center located in Berlin that combines art, science and politics to create new discourse surrounding contemporary issues and the changing global sphere. This definition is, in fact, much too simplistic to describe the wide range of projects and work that HKW does, as their work is often pretty abstract and is too complex for me to fully grasp and articulate at this time. If you would like more information on them as a whole, I’d recommend poking around their website to gain a better understanding of what their projects and work is about.

This collaborative project will be taking on many forms, but is broken up into five “Field Stations”, collaborative seminars and exhibitions of various works. The first field station is being held along the river here in Minneapolis Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st. There will be contributions of experimental short film makers from Waabizipinikaan-Ziibi Filmmaking Residency (WZFR) including artists Andrea Carlson, John Kim and Jenny Schmid. There will also be tours of the Upper Harbor Terminal with Michael Chaney of Project Sweetie Pie, a north Minneapolis group focused on urban agriculture and revitalizing local agribusiness and community vitality for the residents of north Minneapolis, specifically working with the youth members of the community. There will also be a variety of art installations as well as discussions on the Mississippi River’s past and future.

Many of these films, art installations and discussions are focused on the ideas of the Mississippi River in what we call the Anthropocene Epoch. This is a relatively new term that is defined as our current geological age, in which humans are the dominant influence on climate and the environment. This concept has given rise to many questions that are being explored by scientists, academics and artists alike. How did we come to be in this state and what does this mean for the future? This idea is specifically relevant to Minneapolis history with the Mississippi. The city was built on the taking of indigenous lands, the damming of the river, and the harnessing of the power of St. Anthony Falls through construction, effectively destroying what is sacred and natural for human service while attempting to freeze the river in time where it stands now. These concepts and more will be expressed and discussed throughout the field station this weekend and will continue through the coming months.

This article was originally published in the September 20, 2019 issue.