Andrea Carlson, Tia-Simone Gardner, Jenny Schmid, John Kim, Film Residency: An Aesthetics of Displacement


Looking down on St. Anthony Falls from the walls of the lock and dam infrastructure, one can marvel at this feat of technical engineering. The river runs over an artificial concrete platform creating the Falls. The lock with its giant metal gates holds back millions of gallons of water. It is a triumph of modern engineering and architecture, built for commercial river traffic in pursuit of profit and progress.

The lock is now closed; its gates welded shut. Today, when standing atop the lock and dam, one cannot help but reflect critically on its existence as a monument to a different time, a pre-climate change past. During a spring season that has witnessed extensive flooding up and down the Mississippi River, one cannot help but worry about its inadequacy and anticipate failure.


In its current obsolescence, the aged lock and dam infrastructure is a monument to a dark history. Built into its hard structures is the historical legacy of a technic for the displacement of material, non-humans, and human communities. Its presence speaks to the violence of forced movement and dislocation. In a material sense, a dam is engineered to displace water, to hold it back and redirect its flow. The concrete walls and embankments are fortified barriers for keeping nature at bay. The dam is a military technology as well. It shares a history with the berm, which acts as a human breakwater, a defensive technology for the displacement and separation of groups of people.


Four artists have developed new short films inspired by our field station’s approach to Mississippi. An Anthropocene River. They were selected because of pre-existing practices that involved a critical envisioning of the Mississippi River and/or an assessment of the environmental impacts of human activities on bodies of water. A common theme in the artists’ work is an aesthetics of displacement. Andrea Carlson’s site-specific short film, Anthropocene Refusal (2019) is a short film about healing in Dakota land. Tia-Simone Gardner’s There’s Something In The Water (2019) is an experimental documentary set in port cities along the Lower Mississippi River and reflects on Blackness in relation to geography, architecture, surveillance, and a feminist practice of unsettling how we think and know place. Jenny Schmid’s The Micro World (2019) uses drawing and animation to connect us to both the sources and the consequences of river pollution. John Kim’s piece, Dam, Lock, Groyne: The Temporal Architecture of the Mississippi River (2019) is a reflection on the hard structures and earthworks found along the entire length of the Mississippi River that displace water, people, and non-human species. Each artist introduces their new work in the linked pages.