There is a mysterious power down in the wild in-between lands of the Mississippi River. It's a mythic river, and I think this is true along its whole, epic length. It is a river of stories and transit and gods and hideouts and legend. Here in Saint Minneapolis all these funky river bottoms, half underwater and half stinking mud, or sometimes just bare ice and snow, all depending on the season, have been protected from development for 175 years now. I love these changing lands. There are places in them, secret areas, that are almost pure wilderness, but also, for the most part, these lands are something else altogether, something a little stranger.
They are borderlands. They are places that edge up into dreams. They are camps for homeless people. They are the fringes of the city and also its hidden access. Tunnels are carved into its banks. Even when Mark Twain wrote about this Mississippi World in the late 1800's they were the same in so many ways; the blurry dividing line between civilization and the wilderness, outlaw land, the edge of where the reality of our world hits... dreams.
One aspect of the world down there that has been bringing all this home for me is all the wild art woven into it. I won't even touch graffiti here in today's display, though obviously that can be a huge part of it. There is that phrase, "Art for art's sake", but I'm not sure where that applies. Do I, writing and picturing here, do art for art's sake for instance? I don't think that's really accurate. Possibly I do art for art's sake in some tiny part, sometimes, but I also always do art for me. And there can be no doubt, on a significant, but wildly oscillating scale, I do art for you as well. What I don't seem to do art for anymore is... money.
Maybe what we're really talking about is art that rejects capitalism. Art that refuses to be a tradeable value. Art as an expression of the soul, without profession or responsibility. Art to communicate with the world.
A couple of weeks ago I found down on the river a sprawling display of what looked like old, religious paintings, Icons.
This whole display is much larger than it may appear. It felt a little obsessive, and its extreme vulnerability to the world, art that wind or rain could easily destroy, seemed important somehow. And finding it in complete solitude, accentuated the strangeness and maybe even the slight madness of its presence.
Yesterday, on the other side of the river, maybe two miles downstream from the picture above, I found a sculpture that particularly delighted me. Though none of my pictures are quite as eloquently representative of this as I might like, I think there is enough in them for you to form your own opinion without some kind of an elaborate review from me. But for me, coming upon it, I was astounded at its dedication and scale (it is easily taller than me), and I felt it expressing something about all of what I'm talking about in this post. And I cannot resist saying, at first glance, even in person, this seemed much like a strange aggregation of river detritus, perhaps as it does to you, but up close, there is far more craft, effort, and weight to it- it feels like a lot more...
And so with that, I leave you with these pictures:
As much as I think I know this world, I don't. What a thing to find! People are outside. There are things under the surface of the water. Night falls.
The city belongs to us.