Urban/Rural/Wild- looking at city, country and the spaces between


"Urban, Rural, Wild" is a Chicago exhibition of 8 artists' work that includes gallery installations, associated off-site events, a resource center, and a film series to interrogate, rethink, and re-imagine city and country in the midwest. The program is written in incomprehensible artspeak, but we quote a relatively accessible portion below the fold. And google earth notwithstanding, look at the amazing satellite picture on the website, a portion of which is shown above.
::Urban/Rural/Wild at I-Space,Chicago, this fall. In present-day Chicago, there are countless places where physical and conceptual distinctions between city and wilderness are crossed, re-crossed, deployed, and complicated. De-industrialization decimated many working-class neighborhoods while opening up urban land for grasses, trees, and wildlife. Over 200 species of birds nest in or migrate through the wetlands surrounding contaminated Lake Calumet. Ecologists push to preserve brownfields from re-development so that synthetic wildernesses can be established. Mayor Richard M. Daley's plan to make Chicago the "Greenest City in America" promises all kinds of social ends, from decreased crime and improved school test scores to enhanced property values. Only a re-established City in a Garden is believed able to tame the urban jungle, and white professionals moving into gentrifying city neighborhoods are described as "urban pioneers." In many ways, the frontier that fueled Chicago's explosive nineteenth-century growth has turned inward, and the "Wild West" for contemporary land speculators lies along Western Avenue.

At the same time that ideas about the urban and the wild surface in discourse about the city, the rural seems more remote than ever. The difference between city and country is often a perceptual matter, reinforced by popular imagery that rarely acknowledges and frequently conceals the complex and interdependent relationships between the two. Thanks to refrigeration, the internal combustion engine, chemical fertilizers, vast transit and computer networks, and the World Trade Organization, cities are not as reliant on neighboring rural communities for food, and manufacturing can often be more profitable in economically depressed small towns. Agriculture has become as rationalized, mechanized, and globalized as any other industrial product, and farmland participates in and is structured by global capitalism just as much as any factory. Other economies continue to bind city and country together: the invisible movements of water, natural gas, and sewage through a network of underground pipes; the steady stream of suburban youth headed downstate for college; and the confinement of thousands of displaced and disenfranchised city dwellers in rural prisons, which many small towns view as their only chance for survival.