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Charting The American Bottom is a multi-platform project in landscape curation. In a wide-ranging set of collaborations, the project takes the forms of publications, experimental bus-tours, convenings, web-based narrative geography, and a mobile Community Center.

Few regions in the United States exhibit a social and spatial fragmentation as extreme as that of the vast flood plains of the East St Louis region. As a coherent geographic interval stretching from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers down to the confluence with the Kaskaskia River, this flood plain--known to geographers and anthropologists as The American Bottom--is site to the social and spatial aspirations of pre-contact Native Americans, 19th century industrial expansion, 20th century infrastructural consolidation, and 21st century ecological precarity. Yet this is a region defined less by its inherent ecological and geological continuities and more by the industrial patterns that have effectively fractured this region into closed parcels of extraction, production, and displacement.

This project tells an urban/political/ecological/social history of the American Bottom. The slaughterhouses of National City, the aluminum plant of Alorton, and the steel mills of Granite City all gave rise to specific urban forms and social patterns that persist today. It is a narrative of municipal incorporation and dis-incorporation--with civic and social responsibility often at odds with the industrial imperatives of the time. If there was a shared attitude toward extraction, production, and capitol accumulation, then the sharp discontinuities and spatial fragmentation speak to the limitations of industrial production to address civic and social concerns.

CLUI Field Station Installation.
Photograph from the American Bottom Archive hanging in the office of the Mayor of Sauget, IL.
Image courtesy Alton Historical Society.

Charting the American Bottom
Jesse Vogler
Matthew Fluharty
Jennifer Colten

Michael Allen
Jennifer Colten
Matthew Fluharty
Gayle Fritz
Jonathan Hanahan
John Kelly
Charles Lumpkins
Angela Miller
MJ Morgan
Andrew Theising
Jesse Vogler

The Center for Land Use Interpretation
The Art of the Rural

CLUI American Bottom Field Station
G-CADD [Granite City Art and Design District]
November 2017 - March 2018

Art in America
"Atlas St. Louis: The Fate of Landscape"
by James McAnally
February, 2018

St. Louis Public Radio
"Artists create work that explores the edges of St. Louis"
by Willis Ryder Arnold and Gavin Kroeber
December 1, 2017

St. Louis Magazine
"A-List Award: Best Digital Art Project"
June, 2017

St. Louis Public Radio
"Interactive project will let users explore the St. Louis floodplain online and on foot"
by Willis Ryder Arnold
June 29, 2016

Field Sessions

Funding Support
Mellon Foundation
The Divided City
WashU Center for the Humanities
Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art

Special Thanks
Michael "Sonny" Trimble, USACE
Larry Giles, National Building Arts Center
Derek Hoeferlin, WashU