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Sean Connaughty

April 15, 2016

Lake Hiawatha anthropocenic midden survey

Filed under: Artwork — Sean @ 9:18 pm

Lake Hiawatha- anthropocenic midden survey Lake Hiawatha- anthropocenic midden survey Lake Hiawatha- anthropocenic midden survey Lake Hiawatha- anthropocenic midden survey Lake Hiawatha https://www.flickr.com/photos/95827421@N00/21923118735/in/dateposted-public/ The Birth of Tragedy



“Lake Hiawatha (anthropocenic midden survey)” This surface survey will display 10% of the total of extracted items from this 21st century urban midden site. September 11th 5-9pm Sandbox Theatre 3109 42nd street Minneapolis, MN 55406 In the future, when this culture is looked at in retrospect, they will find our plastic. Today, archaeologists learn about ancient cultures by studying their middens… where they put their garbage. Lake Hiawatha is our midden. In this exhibition you can study our culture as the archaeologists of the future will see it; snack wrappers, plastic bottles, cigarillo tips, syringes etc. What will they think of us? Sean Connaughty has removed 69 large bags of trash from Lake Hiawatha. 6 of those bags of trash were sorted, examined, and for example, included 435 plastic straws in the survey (representing 5,000 plastic straws in the total collected). These all came from our streets and are but a small sample of the totality of our trash output carried from the streets directly to our watershed. At this rate at least 25,000 straws will enter the lake within 5 years. Sean has been working with colleagues to sort and examine the 6 bags of trash. A 10% sample that reveals useful and fascinating data about our urban 21st century culture and our patterns of consumption. The data gathered from this sample is extrapolated to determine the number of each item that Sean removed in his entire cleaning activity. As another example, Sean removed in total 359 Snickers bar wrappers. In five years 1,798 snickers wrappers alone will enter the lake, this is but one of the hundreds of brands represented in the survey. The display also includes hundreds of curious, one of a kind objects that were removed.

The exhibition will examine the history of the lake and will highlight the wildlife that makes its home there. There is a vital ecosystem that has managed to survive there despite the adverse conditions. It is the artist’s hope that this exhibition can mark the end of an era of neglect for the lake, and the beginning a clean and healthy Lake Hiawatha. The exhibition coincides with important meetings that will address the future of the lake and the possibility of infrastructure change. The exhibition will provide ways for you to help improve the situation. Collaborators: Craig Johnson, sustainability designer Annette Walby, artist and landscape architect Carol Nordstrom, archaeology Amy Dritz, action, proactive solutions, design Andy Powell, design Peter Fetsch, design Jason Loeffler, design This exhibitiosupported by neighborhood businesses: Repair Lair, Angry Catfish Bicycle and Coffee Bar, Mend Provisions, Nokomis Pet Clinic, Hudson’s Hardware, May Day Cafe, Southside Shiatsu, Busters Bar and Grill and others




Here is a beautiful piece that was written by Christina Scmid for the exhibition:

Rooted in Place, Devoted to Service: Sean Connaughty’s “Lake Hiawatha (anthropocenic midden survey)” Each day, Sean Connaughty visits Lake Hiawatha. Far from recreational, his strolls serve a purpose: since early spring of 2015, he has been collecting the washed up residue of urban life that gathers in the weeds along the shore. A toy tank may once have been a child’s precious possession; anti-theft tabs, long removed from the clothes they once were attached to, suggest different scenes of furtive gestures and quick get-aways. Countless cigarette butts and holders illustrate other pervasive habits, while soiled diapers and condoms, objects once in such close contact with a body, now seem particularly disgusting and abject. A vial of Rubella vaccine disturbs in a different way by making you wonder what may have happened to that serum, that syringe, had the artist not been out on one of his two-to-three hour one-man clean up efforts. What stories do these objects tell, individually and collectively? Like an archeologist, Connaughty studies the South Minneapolis neighborhoods that are part of Lake Hiawatha’s watershed district through the waste that accumulates on its shores. Plastic bottles, lids, and empty cups. Snack covers in all colors and sizes, bright red candy bar wrappers, torn empty bags of chips. Combs. Tennis balls. A plastic ribbed French fry. Broken automobile parts. Toy bullets. What do these artifacts reveal about life in this place, at this time? What can be inferred about the values and beliefs of the people who live and lived here? For showing a representative ten percent of his findings in a survey- style exhibition at Sandbox Theater, Connaughty sorted and categorized six large black bags full of garbage. The results are daunting. Carol Nordstrom, one of Connaughty’s collaborators, compiled an inventory of items. Identified and tallied by weight and average per bag, Nordstrom’s chart extrapolates what these numbers might mean for the future: what accumulates in five years? In fifty years? These speculative questions transform the “anthropocenic midden survey” from a quasi-archeological investigation into a meditation on our future. These are the traces are we leaving behind for future generations, or, even beyond that, for a posthuman future. Rooted in South Minneapolis, Connaughty’s current practice is deeply committed to serving this place and its people. While his work continues the legacies of artists doing maintenance, the Lake Hiawatha project is an ongoing act of environmental advocacy. Connaughty has been trying to get the city to fix the storm sewer outfall on the lake’s north side, where after heavy storms, the amount of garbage increases significantly. Working with Craig Johnson, a sustainability designer, and Annette Walby an artist and landscape architect, the artist has been reaching out to Steffanie Musich, the 5th District Parks Commissioner for the City of Minneapolis, and to representatives of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Thus, Connaughty’s work follows in the footsteps of artists of such art-historical significance as Agnes Denes, Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison, and Mierle Ukeles Laderman, and joins the activist art of such contemporaries as Christine Baeumler, Steven Siegel, and Bob Johnson. (An excellent resource for this kind of ecological-activist artwork: The New Earthwork). Ultimately, Connaughty’s Lake Hiawatha project aims to be truly transformative, in a sense not limited to aesthetic experience alone. Part of this transformation requires political will to fix an ailing storm sewer infrastructure and think differently about problems endemic to urban life and unlikely to solve themselves. Another part involves understanding the ways this place has already been transformed: for the exhibition, the group chronicled the history of the lake. Originally Rice Lake, it was renamed in the wake of Longfellow’s romantic poetry, for Hiawatha, an Iroquois chief. Like many re-namings in the wake of European settlement, the new name suggests that there was no one here to name the lake earlier and attests to the romance with heroic (and ideally far-away) Native Americans. In more than one way, then, the exhibition is a confrontation, a time capsule, an experience, a survey, and unapologetically a means to an end. - Christina Schmid, August 2015 


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