Nicholas & Raoul’s “Watershed: Art, Ecology, and Community Engagement”

Watershed digital elevation model, historic land survey

I really like how you can feel the watershed’s pulse from a simple digital elevation model (left, Milwaukee River watershed), a living earth even with the faintly visible rifts of freeway and sometimes railroad; let’s not stretch her resilience any further.  And, how the 1836 hand-drawn survey maps so powerfully evoke another time in this place: everything that goes with managing to survey and walk square mile sections, crossing swamps, bluffs, rivers, forests, savannas, blazing trees and identifying each one you cross… at a time when you’d be unlikely to meet another person for days.  Thank you to Nicholas and Raoul for the opportunity to have a tiny part in their far-reaching multi-year project (see Watershed for more), and for making community engagement and activism central to art.

Which reminds me of Derrick Jensen’s July/Aug 2010 Calling All Fanatics essay in Orion, from which I quote: “I would extend her [Stephanie McMillan's] comments beyond art: in times like these, for anyone not to devote her/his talents and energies to defending the planet is a betrayal of the worst magnitude, a gesture of contempt against life itself.  It is unforgivable.”

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