Overflow: The Mississippi in every state imaginable

Watershed Art and Ecology
Q.arma Gallery

In 2019, an extensive network of artists brought all their senses to the Mississippi River, paddling downstream in canoes, venturing up multiple tributaries, clambering over collapsing infrastructures, trudging across muddy banks and experiencing the river’s seasonal pulse. From the Headwaters in Minnesota to the Bird’s Foot Delta in New Orleans we set up five research hubs, delving deep into written and oral histories and creating works of all kinds, including guided tours, performances, pamphlets, lectures, shared meals and temporary shows for visitors and local inhabitants. Our concerns ranged across river ecologies, Indigenous, Black and settler-colonial histories, agriculture, urbanization, engineering, state and corporate violence, and the overflowing of liberation struggles that continue today.

How to put all that into a single retrospective? What we’ve developed is a collectively organized exhibition curating both existing and new works, gathering energy with an opening in Minneapolis, then setting out for further meanders downstream. Just follow the water to the latest edition: from the Mississippi up the Illinois, to the North and South branches of Chicago’s Backward River. Co-Prosperity and a newly opened space, Watershed Art & Ecology, are the ports. The artistic research group Deep Time Chicago is the host. Love and chaos are the keys.


The research phase of this project unfolded in 2019 under the title Mississippi. An Anthropocene River, with extensive input and generous support from the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. For documentation of this transdisciplinary continental-scale cultural program, see Anthropocene Curriculum.

Exhibition Sites:

– Co-Prosperity, Chicago, IL

– Watershed Art and Ecology, Chicago, IL

– Q.arma Gallery, Minneapolis, MN

– Minnesota Museum of American Art, Minneapolis, MN

Over 50 institutions were involved in the Anthropocene River project, but special thanks to Goethe-Institut Chicago, Augsburg University River Semester, the Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University, Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, and the Q.arma Gallery.

Project website: tinyurl.com/overflow-chicago
Host website: deeptimechicago.org
Festival website: thebackwardriver.org