This exhibition is only a preliminary investigation into a set of complex questions that shape many dimensions of our lives, our environment, our culture, and our politics. This 'threads' page is a place to share unrealized investigations into areas related to the themes and concerns of the exhibition. Consider it an invitation to take up a question in your own work, and please email us with threads of your own...

University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign & Chicago / Land Grant & Great Cities
Peoples Energy Corporation / Manlove Storage
Hubbard's Trace / Chicago to Danville
Downstate Prison Industry
Circle City Concept
Tax Burden / Redistribution
The Indian Boundary Line
Illinois Continental Divide
Illinois & Michigan Canal / Hennepin Canal / Sanitary & Ship Canal
Media Penetration
Sports Allegiances
Symposium / Bus Tour

University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign & Chicago / Land Grant & Great Cities

What is the relationship between land grant universities and the towns and cities in which they are located? With about half of the undergraduate population of downstate schools like UIUC coming from the Chicagoland area, Champaign-Urbana's character and political priorities are inescapablyy linked to Chicago, even if few true locals would like to admit it. There has been a subtle but change in the rhetoric about land grant schools in recent years, with a greater emphasis on public-private partnerships and technology transfer as tools of economic development and a move away from language stressing education and quality of life for the all--even the most rural--citizens of the state. At the same time, university community partnerships are prominently featured as solutions to the centuries-old 'town-gown' problem that supposed to sidestep the problem of paternalism while meeting the school's old land-grant mission.


Peoples Energy Corporation / Manlove Storage

The Chicago-based utility company People Energy owns a massive natural gas underground storage facility in northeast Champaign county. This facility, called Manlove Field, is connected to Chicago by a 150-mile underground pipeline, one of the most literal indicators of the interrelationships between the urban north and the agricultural downstate.


Hubbard's Trace / Chicago to Danville

A Paul Revere-esque ride from Chicago to Danville, IL by Gurden Saltonstall Hubbard to warn early settlers of an impending attack not by a colonial power but by the Winnebago. Hubbard made the 125-mile journey in 19 hours on horseback, following a path he had cleared by hand. That path--Hubbard's trace--became Illinois's first state route (Illinois 1), and Chicago's State St.runs along the early trail from the southside to the heart of the Loop.


Downstate Prison Industry

Faced with few economic prospects and dwindling populations, small towns in Illinois, as elsewhere, have pursued prison construction to create jobs and bring in other businesses. Whatever moral arguments can be made against a form of 'development' that depends on a heady mix of crime, drug use, draconian law enforcement, and suspended civil rights, a perverse incentive beyond job creation also animates the downstate prison boom. These prisons, filled by mostly African American and Latino men from Chicago, increase small towns' populations, making them suddenly eligible for a larger share of federal and state tax moneys, while the neighborhoods where the prisoners were born lose out economically to the places where they are incarcerated.


Circle City Concept

In contrast to William Cronon's book that references central place theory to describe the related growth of Chicago and the midwest, Phil Lewis proposed an alternate model. Lewis's Circle City concept places Chicago as one point on an arc of urban areas, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, Green Bay, and the Quad Cities, that center around the driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin. Lewis advocates conserving the driftless area as a biosphere reserve, a wild 'central park' for the cities of the upper midwest.


Tax Burden / Redistribution

Depending on who is talking, latte-sipping, sushi-eating city dwellers are freely spending tax money paid by hard working Illinois farmers, or the southern two-thirds of the state is being consistently bailed out from a complete financial meltdown solely by the beleaguerd, overtaxed property owners of Chicago. Chicago recently raised its sales tax rate--which disproportionately affects the poorest residents--to 9%, while the sales tax rate of more affluent suburbs and less affluent rural areas remains substantially lower. What is the history of this conflict over tax money, and how might something like a just redistribution be imagined?


The Indian Boundary Line

In 1816, the first Potawatomi land cession in Illinois granted the US government a huge swathe of land extending 10 miles on either side of the Chicago river from Lake Michigan and west to the Fox River. This land was intended to provide a secure buffer zone for a canal that had been envisioned since the time of Marquette and Joliet as part of a waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Illinois and Michigan Canal opened about 20 years later, just after the last Potawatomi land cession forced the relocation of the entier tribe from Illinois. For a generation, however, the line of the original land cession, "The Indian Boundary Line" formed a boundary between property and wilderness, the United States and Indian Country, and the line survives today in a handful of street names and disturbances to the grid.


Illinois Continental Divide

Completed in 1900, the Sanitary and Ship Canal reversed the flow of the Chicago River in order to send the cities' organic waste downstate instead of dumping it in Lake Michigan. At the same time, the watershed was permanently altered, with only a small sliver of northeast Illinois in the Great Lakes Watershed, and most of Chicagoland ultimately draining into the Mississippi Basin and thence to the Gulf of Mexico. The line between the two great watersheds is a sub-continental divide. Where does this line run through the city, and what other divides might it imply?


Illinois & Michigan Canal / Hennepin Canal / Sanitary & Ship Canal

Much of the network of canals built in the 19th century to open up the continent's interior for commerce and to displace the sewage problems of a fast growing Chicago are now being refigured as national heritage and recreation corridors. The language used to promote the canals' 'new life' repeats the same metaphors of manifest destiny and cultural and technological superiority that were used almost 200 years ago.


Media Penetration

One measure of Chicago's influence on the surrounding area might be the distance its radio and television signals travel. The Chicago Tribune was the first Chicago media outlet with designs on nationwide influence, and its WGN (standing for World's Greatest Newspaper) television station has a national audience due to cable. Reception for many radio and television signals fluctuates according to geography, topology, distance, season, and time of day, with areas outside (and even within) Chicago being pulled more strongly into the media orbit as some times than others.


Sports Allegiances

Cubs vs. White Sox vs. Cardinals? Is there a point somewhere in Illinois at which allegiance to sports teams noticeably shifts? Is being a Cardinals fan in Illinois in some measure a response to the perceived dominance of the state by Chicago? What about the Illini--a 'statewide' team most visibly supported in the small towns around the Urbana-Champaign campus?



Three questions: (1) What is the relationship between Chicago and Urbana-Champaign? (2) How does the territory between the two cities function? (3) How might these complex relationships be described, explained, and re-imagined?

Each fall, nearly 17,000 young people travel down Interstate 57 from the five-county Chicago metropolitan area to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Upon graduation, many of them return to the city to work and raise their families. Beyond this steady migration of young, educated bodies, what is the relationship of Urbana-Champaign to Chicago? Is I-57, the road into and out of these cities, —simply a conduit between a city and its satellite through a rural no-place, or does the land through which it travels reflect and inflect the constellation of resources, power, and mobility in the region?

These questions could be taken up in an interdisciplinary symposium and roving discussion that explores how current site-specific art practice and the evolving discourse about regionalism might inform our understanding of the natural and cultural ecologies of the area in which we live. A traditional, day long symposium at UIUC would permit invited speakers to present their work in urban planning, history, sociology, art, and community organizing. The following day, an extended plenary session would allow speakers to engage one another, interact with the audience, and explore the region on a bus tour traveling from UIUC to Chicago. Modeled after and developed in consultation with the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the bus tour permits exploration and dialogue at several sites that illuminate historic and contemporary relationships within the region and the position of our area in global networks. Far more than a means of conveyance between discrete points, the bus tour will include a multimedia program of documentaries, narratives, and artists' projects that offers yet another perspective on our historically rich, constantly changing, and often contested region.

Rarely do academic discussions of regionalism and globalization incorporate the many ways artists and other practitioners enrich our experience and understanding of these issues. More rarely still do these discussions venture beyond the lecture hall to trace, touch and transform the physical territories under consideration. The symposium's unusual format would allow a more meaningful cross-disciplinary exchange between artists and scholars than is typically possible with the familiar exhibit/panel discussion program.

PROPOSED PARTICIPANTS > William Cronon / Saskia Sassen / Phil Lewis / Ken Dunn / A. Laurie Palmer / Dan Peterman / Center for Neighborhood Technology / New Academy for Nature and Culture / Center for Land Use Interpretation


Chanute Air Force Base / Lincoln’s Challenge Academy / Rantoul, IL
American Premium Foods Pork Packing Co-op / Rantoul, IL
Kankakee Rail Yards / Kankakee, IL
Peotone Airport Site / Peotone, IL
Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park / Hebron, IN
Calumet Chemical Waste Disposal Facility / Calumet City, IL
Indian Boundary Prairies / Markham, IL
Dixie Square Mall / Harvey, IL
Stickney Wastewater Treatment Facility / Stickney, IL
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie / Wilmington, IL

CLUI / Land Use Database


CLUI / Diversions & Dislocations: Owens Valley in the Spring of 2004
CLUI / Margins in Our Midst: A Tour of Irwindale, CA
e-Xplo / DENCITY "Serving New York's Gritty Backstage"


William J. Cronon > UW-Madison / Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies

http://www.geography.wisc.edu/faculty/cronon/welcome.html / http://www.oriononline.org/pages/om/03-3om/Cronon.html / http://www.wilderness.org/AboutUs/LandEthic_CrononPerspective.cfm / http://www.aacu-edu.org/issues/liberaleducation/cronon.cfm

William Cronon is a historian who studies American environmental history and the history of the American West. Cronon's research seeks to understand the history of human interactions with the natural world: how we depend on the ecosystems around us to sustain our material lives, how we modify the landscapes in which we live and work, and how our ideas of nature shape our relationships with the world around us. His acclaimed book, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (Norton 1991), which examines Chicago's relationship to its rural hinterland during the second half of the nineteenth century, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in History. He is currently working on a history of Portage, Wisconsin, that will explore how people's sense of place is shaped by the stories they tell about their homes, their lives, and the landscapes they inhabit. He has edited a number of influential collections, including Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America's Western Past (with George Miles and Jay Gitlin, Norton 1992) and Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (Norton, 1995). Cronon is the Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies and Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin­Madison. He holds an M.A. (1979), M.Phil. (1980), and Ph.D. (1990) from Yale, and a D.Phil. (1981) from Oxford University. Cronon has been a Rhodes Scholar, Danforth Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and MacArthur Fellow and is an elected member of the American Philosophical Society.

Saskia Sassen >> University of Chicago / Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology > London School of Economics / Centennial Visiting Professor

http://sociology.uchicago.edu/faculty/sassen/ / http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/scg/scg.html / http://www.16beavergroup.org/mtarchive/archives/000618.php / http://www.india-seminar.com/2001/503/503%20saskia%20sassen.htm / http://www.transformaties.org/bibliotheek/lecture_sassen.htm / http://csi.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/52/4/649 / http://absoluteone.ljudmila.org/saskia_en.php

Saskia Sassen is a sociologist and political economist researching the constitution and effects of the globalized economy. Her books have been translated into fourteen languages and include Global Networks/Linked Cities (ed., Routledge 2002); Guests and Aliens (The New Press, 1999); and The Global City (Princeton 1991 and 2002). She is currently completing her forthcoming book Denationalization: Territory, Authority  and Rights in a Global Digital Age (Under contract with Princeton University Press). Sassen has written and spoken internationally about digital art and tactical media in the context of globalization. She is co-director of the Economy Section of the Global Chicago Project, a Member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Urban Data Sets, a Member of the Council of Foreign Relations, and Chair of the newly formed Information Technology, International Cooperation and Global Security Committee of the SSRC. Sassen holds positions as the Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and Centennial Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. She received her M.A. from the Université de Poitiers (1973) and her Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame (1974).

Phil Lewis >> UW-Madison / Jens Jensen Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture > President of the Marshal Erdman Academy of Sustainable Design

http://www.erdmanholdings.com/ehi/academy / http://www.madison.com/archives/read.php?ref=tct:2004:05:01:370965:METRO

Phil Lewis is a landscape architect who has developed pioneering approaches to regional planning and sustainable design. Using his "Circle City" concept to describe urbanization in the Upper Midwest, he has developed planning processes that engage scientific knowledge, environmental sustainability, aesthetic design, and public involvement. As Jens Jensen Professor at the University of Wisconsin, he taught a popular course in regional design and founded the Environmental Awareness Center (EAC) to serve as a design-research studio and university extension producing plans for communities around the state while providing real-world experience for students. After his retirement in 1996, he founded the Marshall Erdman Academy of Sustainable Design to continue his research and practice in sustainable design. Lewis documented collected his approaches to planning in the book Tomorrow by Design: A Regional Design Process for Sustainability (John Wiley & Sons 1996). He has received the American Society of Landscape Architects Gold Medal, its highest award; the Wisconsin Idea Award, and the Jim Graaskamp and Orchids Award. Lewis holds a degree in landscape architecture from the University of Illinois (1950) and is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Ken Dunn >> Founder and Director of the Resource Center

http://www.tenbyten.net/dunn.html / http://www.resourcecenterchicago.org/index.html / http://www.resourcecenterchicago.org/NYTimes82503.html / http://www.inthefield.info/doublebook.html

Ken Dunn founded the Resource Center, one of the nation's first community-based recycling programs and Chicago's only non-profit recycler, thirty years ago. As a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Chicago, Ken decided that he could not remain immersed in the academic world while neglecting the environmental, social, and economic concerns of Hyde Park and Chicago. From its origins as a recycling program, the Resource Center has developed projects ranging from bicycle repair to local economic development to organic urban agriculture. For his efforts to reduce waste and increase sustainable, clean productivity in the City of Chicago, Ken was granted the Leonardo Organizational Award for Creativity as well as the Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility Mumford Award. Dunn's work has been featured in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Conscious Choice, and Chicago Magazine as well as in the book Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago by David Naguib Pellow (MIT 2002).

A. Laurie Palmer >> School of the Art Institute of Chicago / Associate Professor / Sculpture Department

http://www.artic.edu/~apalme/ / http://moncon.greenmuseum.org/papers/palmer1.html / http://www.uic.edu/aa/college/gallery400/palmer/ / http://www.artic.edu/saic/art/projects/faculty/lpalmer-p1.html / http://www.laforum.org/issues/print.php?id=97_0_15_0_C

A. Laurie Palmer's interdisciplinary art practice includes sculpture, writing, public art, and collaborative projects. She has worked with the artists' collective Haha for fifteen years, creating installations and interventions in everyday sites and social spaces. Her personal work investigates and reimagines spaces in ways that encourages participation and public engagement. Palmer has received grants from the Driehaus Foundation, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation and from the ArtCouncil, San Francisco, and special project funding from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Her recent exhibitions include Critical Mass at the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, Chicago (2002); 3 Acres on the Lake at the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Gallery 312, Chicago (2001, 2002); and Air/Air at the
Grimaldi Forum, Monaco (2000). In 2004, she completed a fellowship at Radcliffe College and participated in Monongahela Conference at the
Green Museum. Palmer is currently associate professor in sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received her MFA
in 1988.

Dan Peterman >> University of Illinois - Chicago / Associate Professor / School of Art and Design

http://www.mcachicago.org/MCA/Exhibit/past/peterman.html / http://www.temporaryservices.org/2004.html#downtime / http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0010/features/peterman.html / http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/virtualtours/ecologies/ / http://www.idincorporated.com/NAE%20site/marapril_nato.html

Internationally acclaimed artist Dan Peterman focuses on the consistent movement and transformation of industrial and consumer detritus: reprocessed plastic, aluminium cans and flammable garbage. In using human waste for his sculpture work or installed environments he reveals the interrelated social, economic and political effects of our generation of waste. In 2004, he had a one-person retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. A sampling of international exhibits include the Skulptur-Biennale Münsterland (Germany, 2003); the Kyoto National Museum of Art (Japan, 2001); Berlin Biennale (Germany, 2001); the Fruitmarket Gallery (Scotland, 2000); Kunstlerhaus Palais Thurn und Taxis (Austria, 1999). Public art projects include Running Table, a hundred-foot-long picnic table made of post-consumer plastics designed for Chicago's Grant Park, and Accessories to an Event (Plaza), for the MCA. He is represented by Andrea Rosen Gallery (New York) and Klosterfelde (Berlin). He is also founder and coordinator of the Experimental Station, a center on Chicago's Southside in a diverse range of activities, including Blackstone Bicycle Works (a youth education bike shop), The Baffler magazine, the Urban Farm Project, Big Fish Furniture, and Monk Parakeet (a visiting artist and artist project program). Peterman teaches art at the University of Illinois at Chicago and received his MFA from the University of Chicago (1986).

Center for Neighborhood Technology

http://www.cnt.org/ / http://www.greenmapping.org/

New Academy for Nature and Culture / William Jordan

http://chicagowildernessmag.org/issues/spring2004/jordan.html / http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/9650.html / http://www.luc.edu/depts/envsci/new_academy_.html

Center for Land Use Interpretation / Matt Coolidge

http://www.clui.org/ / http://www.clui.org/clui_4_1/pro_pro/tours/index.html / http://ludb.clui.org/ex/t/tag/IL/