Wednesday, May 28

The Pacific Northwest: the Confluence Project

I'm visiting Zack in Portland for a roomy two weeks, and there's so much to show and tell. Today I want to mention Maya Lin's Confluence Project, a series of installations along the Columbia River, ending at the mouth of the river, where it flows into the Pacific at Ilwaco. Lin agreed to do this project for the 200th anniversary celebration of the Lewis & Clark expedition. Her intention was to show the chosen sites not just as they are now, but in a way that makes the visitor simultaneously inhabit past, present and future. Like the work of the archaeologist or fossil hunter, who draws our attention to the life that has been in a place before us and thereby makes us aware of the continuum of time in landscape, Lin's work here recreates past eras in a living way. These sites are not at all like the "living history" exhibits we can see at the Mayflower replica in Plymouth, Mass., nor even at Washington and Cape Disappointment State Park.Plimouth Plantation, nor the recreations at Old Sturbridge Village or Colonial Williamsburg. Those places have their use in giving us an image of human life in a particular landscape and try as best they can to show what life was like back then. But Lin's goal is more subtle: to show the continuity of human life in a specific location. In preparation for the work at the Cape Disappointment site, work was dune on reclaiming some of the dunes and natural features, and Lin's projects, created out of natural materials simply and subtly show that continuity. Her fish-cleaning table, above, was made out of a slab of basalt, which abounds here, and both reminds us of the Chinook's reliance on fish and provides a working space for fishermen now.
This is what we saw in the bay right off the end of the table.

Here's the site where you can read about the project and see a video of Lin talking about it:
Note: The Chinooks, like so many tribes, were nearly decimated by the arrival of the whites, and were about to gain recognition once more as a tribe at the end of Clinton's presidency. But when Bush came in he denied them this courtesy. I hope that the thinking of the people who commissioned this project and others like it and who encourage similar projects in the schools will prevail in the years to come.

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