Archived entries for louisiana

Petrochemical America: Richard Misrach + Kate Orff (SCAPE)

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Introducimos por primera vez en el blog un libro-investigación de enorme interés, Petrochemical America, no sólo por centrarse en el paisaje del río Mississippi, uno de los intereses fundacionales de este blog, sino por la propuesta y las personas que la desarrollan. Richard Misrach, fotógrafo norteamericano conocido en España sobre todo por sus fotografías del desierto norteamericano en la serie de los Desert Cantos, inicia el camino con un recorrido fotográfico por el tramo final del Mississippi, en Louisiana, donde los antiguos terrenos de las plantaciones se han convertido en una sucesión de industrias petroquímicas y alimentarias que han llevado a bautizar esta zona como Cancer Alley. Al igual que en obras anteriores Misrach busca el diálogo con otra mirada, en este caso con la arquitecta norteamericana Kate Orff, directora de la oficina SCAPE de NY. Juntos desarrollan una conversación en forma de ir y venir entre fotografías y cartografías que define un formato de investigación novedoso y de gran profundidad, cuyo mayor valor sin embargo es utilizar con la mayor honestidad y claridad las herramientas propias de cada disciplina, fotografía y arquitectura del paisaje, para expresar toda la complejidad de la situación presentada sin por ello rechazar ninguna de sus dimensiones ni abrumar al espectador con un trabajo excesivamente técnico. Al contrario, el recorrido a lo largo de sus más de doscientas páginas va dibujando progresivamente la situación envolviendo al lector con la fuerza expresiva de sus imágenes y la claridad expositiva de sus temas, acabando además con un interesante “esto debe continuar” en forma de caja de herramientas de la oficina SCAPE.

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“Petrochemical America features Richard Misrach’s haunting photographic record of Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor, accompanied by landscape architect Kate Orff’s Ecological Atlas—a series of “throughlines,” speculative drawings developed through research and mapping of data from the region. Their joint effort depicts and unpacks the complex cultural, physical, and economic ecologies along 150 miles of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, an area of intense chemical production that first garnered public attention as “Cancer Alley” when unusual occurrences of cancer were discovered in the region.

This collaboration has resulted in an unprecedented, multilayered document presenting a unique narrative of visual information. Petrochemical America offers in-depth analysis of the causes of decades of environmental abuse along the largest river system in North America. Even more critically, the project offers an extensively researched guidebook to the way in which the petrochemical industry has permeated every facet of contemporary life. What is revealed over the course of the book is that Cancer Alley—although complicated by its own regional histories and particularities—may well be an apt metaphor for the global impact of petrochemicals on the human landscape as a whole.”

See more at: aperture.org

Petrochemical America - Kate Orff

Petrochemical America - Kate Orff

“Americans know what the oil and gas and coal landscape looks like – but do we really? There is a hidden side to America’s material prosperity. Most of its harmful manifestations are literally invisible – benzene and dioxins “disappear” into the air, while waste chemicals are pumped underground into injection wells. PCBs, Mercury, and Lead, toxic in the most imperceptible but potentially devastating amounts, persist in our bodies, in river sediment, in soils. Commonly used petrochemicals that are all around us and seemingly impossible to avoid have the potential to re-wire our bodies’ endocrine systems. Carbon dioxide, which has precipitated the global climate crisis, is largely invisible. We all seemingly benefit from fast-flowing oil, and cheap consumer goods and foodstuffs, but the profound negative effects and associated wastes remain localized, often in poor communities. On a regional scale, especially along the Louisiana coast, thousands of miles of canals, pipes, and oil platforms criss-cross the gulf and reach deep into the countryside, blocking animal migration paths. These channels cut for oil and gas pipelines lead to erosion and provide direct routes for salt-bearing tides, killing freshwater wetlands, which are disappearing at the rate of a football field every thirty-eight minutes, transforming inland communities into coastal towns. Even the mighty and mythical Mississippi River has been transformed in its lower reaches into a de facto waste pipe, receiving massive quantities of farm chemicals, sewage, and industrial waste, creating an eerie, temporarily lifeless expanse of water off the coast of Louisiana called the “dead zone.”"

via Kate Orff: Petrochemical America: Toward a New Energy Landscape

Black in Back: Mardi Gras and the Racial Geography of New Orleans (II): a far more complex set of social relationships than those that prevailed on the plantation…

New Orleans in 1798 and 1880. [Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, UT-Austin]

New Orleans in 1798 and 1880. [Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, UT-Austin]

In French and Spanish New Orleans, slaves had more freedom of movement than they did upcountry. This relative freedom was partly a function of the tasks that city slaves performed — running errands, for example, rather than hoeing cotton fields. And it was partly due to the fact that New Orleans was surrounded by water — river, lake or swamp — and running away was difficult. But it was also the product of a far more complex set of social relationships than those that prevailed on the plantation.

For example, in a well-established practice known as plaçage, aristocratic men regularly maintained mixed-race mistresses. The accepted arrangement required, among other things, that a man give his mistress the deed to a house he bought for her. The neighborhood that grew up around Congo Square thus became the first in North America composed of free African-American homeowners. It is now the Treme of HBO fame, the city’s Creole African-American heart, home to brass bands and, before the storm, the city’s greatest concentration of skilled building tradespeople.

In another sign of the relative freedom of New Orleans’s African population, Congo Square itself was given over to slaves and free people of color on Sundays for dances — most famously the Bamboula, Calinda and Congo (whence the square’s name) — and other revelry.

via Black in Back: Mardi Gras and the Racial Geography of New Orleans: Places: Design Observer.

Congo Square

Congo Square is an open space within Louis Armstrong Park, which is located in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, just across Rampart Street north of the French Quarter. The Tremé neighborhood is famous for its history of African American music.

In Louisiana’s French and Spanish colonial era of the 18th century, slaves were commonly allowed Sundays off from their work. They were allowed to gather in the "Place de Negres", "Place Publique", later "Circus Square" or informally "Place Congo" [2] at the "back of town" (across Rampart Street from the French Quarter), where the slaves would set up a market, sing, dance, and play music.

via Congo Square – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Black in Back: Mardi Gras and the Racial Geography of New Orleans (I)

Among the people who came to New Orleans by the Bayou St. John route were slaves who, before the canal was built, were a convenient sort of cargo because they could walk the last two miles. The portage wound through undeveloped swamp to the rear edge of the city at what is now the corner of Rampart and Governor Nicholls Streets. Later, when Carondelet Canal was completed, the slaves’ first footfall in North America was a field adjacent to the turning basin — a field that has been variously called Circus Public Square, Place des Negres, and (immediately after the Civil War) Beauregard Square. It is now known as Congo Square. This was the threshold between the wilderness and the European town, and it was New Orleans’s back door sill. It would not be the last time that these individuals would be admitted “‘round back.”

The two squares — Jackson and Congo — marked the formal front entrance and the utilitarian back entrance to the old city. Orleans Street, perpendicular to the river, connects the two, or almost: it runs four blocks from Congo Square up to the rear garden of St Louis Cathedral. To continue on to Jackson Square, you must slip around the Cathedral on either Pirate Alley or Pere Antoine Alley, now charming passages that nonetheless underscore that you’re making your way around front.

The two squares also marked the centers of gravity — geographic and symbolic — of the city’s white and black populations. These centers then extended into gravitational lines parallel to the river, as the city, constrained by the swamps, grew like a snake upriver and downriver from the Quarter. These lines, even today, retain qualities of front and back.

via Black in Back: Mardi Gras and the Racial Geography of New Orleans: Places: Design Observer.

“the American Ruhr”

Moreover, there were so many big industries between the two cities that at night they made the river glow like a worm. As a result of settlement patterns, this reach of the Mississippi had long been known as “the German coast,” and now, with B. F. Goodrich, E. I. du Pont, Union Carbide, Reynolds Metals, Shell, Mobil, Texaco, Exxon, Monsanto, Uniroyal, Georgia-Pacific, Hydrocarbon Industries, Vulcan Materials, Nalco Chemical, Freeport Chemical, Dow Chemical, Allied Chemical, Stauffer Chemical, Hooker Chemicals, Rubicon Chemicals, American Petrofina—with an infrastructural concentration equalled in few other places—it was often called “the American Ruhr.”

via Fighting the Mississippi River : The New Yorker.

Southern Louisiana exists in its present form because the Mississippi River has jumped here and there within an arc about two hundred miles wide, like a pianist playing with one hand—frequently and radically changing course, surging over the left or the right bank to go off in utterly new directions…

“The Mississippi River, with its sand and silt, has created most of Louisiana, and it could not have done so by remaining in one channel. If it had, southern Louisiana would be a long narrow peninsula reaching into the Gulf of Mexico. Southern Louisiana exists in its present form because the Mississippi River has jumped here and there within an arc about two hundred miles wide, like a pianist playing with one hand—frequently and radically changing course, surging over the left or the right bank to go off in utterly new directions. Always it is the river’s purpose to get to the Gulf by the shortest and steepest gradient. As the mouth advances southward and the river lengthens, the gradient declines, the current slows, and sediment builds up the bed. Eventually, it builds up so much that the river spills to one side. Major shifts of that nature have tended to occur roughly once a millennium. The Mississippi’s main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier—arcuate strings of Cajun towns. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river’s present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it. By the route of the Atchafalaya, the distance across the delta plain was a hundred and forty-five miles—well under half the length of the route of the master stream.”

ATCHAFALAYA by John McPhee

 



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