Monday, October 11, 2010

Artica: St Louis's Confluence of Creative Expression and Ancient Burial Grounds

A living entity to some, the Mississippi has churned industry and trade for a lineage of civilizations along its banks. When St Louis was established as a trading post by European explorers in the 1700s it was commonalty referred to as Mound City due to earthen structures constructed by a previous civilization, the Mississippians. In 1040 AD it's thought to have been the largest metropolis of its time.

As an homage to whom many refer to as the "mound builders" this past weekend artists, musicians, performers and members of the Burning Man community gathered for a yearly renegade art festival called Artica. The festival is on the site of the Big Mound, one of the largest burial mounds in North America removed in the late 1800s.

Artica in many ways seeks to encapsulate the City's past and connect to the future as its known for hosting a blend of experimental projects, ritualistic performances and site specific works that mimic the site's current incarnation of industrial decay.

Ironically this year's festival was dubbed "Return of the Mound Builders" as the St Louis Art Museum dumped two massive mounds of dirt from their expansion on the land. This created an exciting and drastically altered landscape juxtaposing a large homeless encampment along the riverfront.

Highlights from this year's event included a tent-size camera obscura, Stations of the Cross Grotto, a colorful woven web inside a dilapidated industrial complex, and a memory exchange project. As well as performances by the Unsceen Ghost Brigade, a group of street performers from Minneapolis traveling down the Mississippi on a raft who embody the stories of river rats of yester yor.

After sunset the Artica Effigy was ceremoniously torched as fire spinners, breathers, dancers and a light display entertained an audience of hundreds. The event concluded Sunday with a parade of dreams as festival goers floated handmade biodegradable constructions down the river.

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