Lotte Geeven
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The River, 2014. An installation, sound piece and book. Location: May, New Orleans. Listen to the sound piece, a one hour and 15 minute reading by Dr. Christophe Jackson.

I followed the Mississippi from Bemidji, Minnesota to it's end in New Orleans and looked up the literary organizations & centers at these places, leading me to over 400 local poets that lived in close proximity to the river. I traced their works looking for lines about water in words dating from 1855 to the present. I geographically organized these lines state by state, from the source of the river to the delta in a story I constructed of lines describing the 2320.2 mile current. This one hour and fifteen minute story navigates from one voice to another, through history, past the muddy riverbanks, through valleys, okra fields and plantations and can be heard in the installation.

In this work that combines a linguistic anthropology research with an abstract and graphical environment in May Gallery, the installation serves as a stage for understanding the city and the ways in which upriver regions have metaphorically and literally fed the terra firma that New Orleans sits upon. The industrial space at May is divided by ten long basins filled with colored water and sediments allowing the audience to weave through the space along the strips of water while listening to the story. The colors of the water are based on the poetry mentioning the Mississippi water in several shades and colors from bright yellow to pitch black. The more frequent a specific color was mentioned, the larger the basin became. This way the architecture of the water became a color chart of water through the words of poets. In some cases these specific odd colors mentioned in the literature where based on observations. Alex Kolker, an professor at Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium who is interested in the natural, climatic, and anthropogenic processes that govern coastal systems during times of stasis and change explained me the Mississippi changes color throughout its' course, caused by o.a. iron oxide, algae and red clay. If we would scoop out some of the sediments at the delta in New Orleans and looked at it through a microscope we would we see vibrant colored particles.