Rhein vs. Mississippi

The Mississippi is the American Rhine, Weser, Elbe, and Oder all combined. It furnishes the best American comparison with the Rhine and perhaps an occasion for applying the lessons in waterway transportation which the Rhine has to teach. Both Rhine and Mississippi flow through the heart of a rich continent; each represents nature’s route of communication between its own fertile valley and the outside world. In their history the streams present a striking parallel up to the period 1860-70; then transportation on the Rhine is modernized and the river takes its place as the greatest waterway in the world, while the Mississippi retains its ancient form of transportation and goes down under the competition of the American railroads.
We saw that the early railroads in Germany were built perpendicular to the Rhine and were considered as feeders to it. When the short railroad lines had begun to be connected up, and the through routes began to compete with, the Rhine, the change in the nature of the traffic between the Rhine Valley and foreign parts was already one that signified a preponderance of bulk goods: coal, iron ore, lumber, wheat, petroleum. Not only did these goods clamor for lower rates than the railroads could give, the cost of loading these goods into the huge river barges at Rotterdam and of unloading them at the river port was also far smaller than the corresponding operation in the case of the little standard 10-ton Dutch and German cars. The spill and scoop principle at the basis of this handling of bulk goods is one whose advantage obviously increases with the size of the transporting unit. (…)

Up to 1860 the history of traffic on the Mississippi is similar to the history of the Rhine, excepting that the American river was not burdened by river tolls which it took half a century to remove. During the first half of the nineteenth century the exports of most of the country west of the Allegheny Mountains were drained off to New Orleans by means of the magnificent system of waterways at the disposal of that port. Staples of commerce were corn, lard, bacon, whiskey, apples, potatoes, hay, etc. — lumped under the name of “western produce,” which supplied the southern plantations and were exported from New Orleans. The southern states added cotton, tobacco, and molasses to the downstream trade. Planters in northern Alabama sent their cotton down the Tennessee River to the Ohio, down the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans. In 1860 New Orleans saw 3500 river steamers arrive, bringing cargo to the value of 185 million dollars.’New Orleans was accounted the fourth seaport in the world — after London, Liverpool, and New York — and handled in 1860 27 per cent of our exports. In 1907 her percentage was 9 per cent.
In the Mississippi region, as along the Rhine, railroads at first served primarily as short lines connecting inland communities with waterways; for example, the Madison and Indianapolis, the Evansville and Crawfordsville, the Louisville and Frankfort. The Pennsylvania Railroad for some time after reaching Pittsburg was dependent on the Ohio packets for westward connection. But the railway lines did not long regard themselves as feeders to the waterways. In 1858 there were two through rail connections between Chicago and the eastern seaboard. These, in conjunction with the water route formed by the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal, were already drawing off to the Atlantic coast our exports of western produce.
The Civil War suspended navigation on the lower Mississippi. In the meantime the transcontinental railroads, north of the line of operations, extended their connections and services and got the exports of the West once for all in their grasp. When the war was over the channel of the Mississippi had gone wild, after five years of neglect. At the end of the war New Orleans found her channel to the sea too narrow for large steamers to enter. This evil has been remedied and the Mississippi has been given a lowwater depth of 9 feet for 840 miles (up to Cairo), a depth of 8 feet for 1000 miles (to St. Louis). We need not look to find the inferiority of the American river in the insufficiency of its channel. The Rhine has a channel of only 6 1/2 feet at low water and that for only 350 miles upstream from Rotterdam.

(aus Edwin J. Clapp: The Navigable Rhine, Boston/New York 1911)

Neue Rheinmetropole, neue Rheinlänge

Das Monatsende bringt essentielle Meldungen zur rheinischen Existenz: nicht nur, daß die Länge des Rheins wegen eines Zahlendrehers bisher öffentlich meist falsch mit 1320 statt mit richtig 1230 Kilometern angegeben wird, wie der Kölner Biologie-Professor Bruno Kremer laut gestrigen Zeitungsmeldungen per eigenen Vermessungen herausgefunden haben will, nein, es existiert sogar recht unvermittelt eine neue Rheinmetropole, wenn auch zunächst nur für einen Monat, wie der folgenden Ankündigung (merci erneut an Roland Bergère) entnommen werden kann:

Ecole Regionale des Beaux-Arts in Besançon: Copacabana doesn’t exist! About the existence of the Rhin Rhône territory

If there is a place where human utopia has been achieved, that place is Copacabana. It is decadence in the poetic sense. The decadence in Copacabana works as a curtain, a protection for everything which happens within. Copacabana doesn’t have a centre, nor links with golden youth… It is a sort of oasis for all kinds of… Copacabana is wonderful. It is a wonderful town. Copacabana doesn’t exist!

This exhibition is the result of work carried out in a workshop of research at the ERBA. It was initiated by Philippe Terrier-Hermann and carried out jointly by students and two artists in residence, Ariane Bosshard, graphic artist, and Maxime Brygo, photographer. The question of creating a Rhône-Rhine agglomeration, utopian conurbation of two million inhabitants, stretching in an arc from Le Creusot to Bâle, including especially Dijon, Besançon and Mulhouse, has been the driving force of this workshop based on the question of how the territory can be represented. Indeed, isn’t this territory for now a mere mental representation? Will not this new entity measuring more than 300 Km in length, with an efficient high speed train network as backbone, exist only for an elite or a limited circle of informed civil servants and elected officials? Does the development scheme take into account all the essential aspirations of the inhabitants in all their diversity? Is grouping of competences in order to establish centres of excellence to exist on an international level compatible with the necessity to preserve social benefits and access to culture. Where are the centre and the boundaries of an agglomeration? How do we represent a new metropolis made up of diverse cities, each having their own specific identity, equally historically as mythically? We have tried to reply to these questions both together and individually and present our diverse research here. Maxime Brygo, in his photographic work attempting to represent this agglomeration has searched for images meaningfully illustrating history and symbols. He questions the subject of identification with a territory, its history and its potential monuments. Two notes, one official, the other descriptive are given to each of these pictures. In this way, Maxime Brygo offers us the chance to dare to assume the position of judge between the image and its potential interpretations; he leaves the images to float in an undefined status. With this body of work, Maxime Brygo asserts that this territory exists in its capacity to link these stories and their representations. As an accompaniment to this research, Ariane Bosshard has reflected on the traceability of this mental territory and on the good way of realizing a book about such a myth. So, she has conceived a black book, a book to elaborate mentally only from what is given to us: the oral description of the pictures. Thus she also plays with the zones of mental construction existing between words and images.

Artists’ representation of a territory stimulates possibilities and their perception of these possibilities is potentially utopian. Though attempting to activate a deliberately real territory, artists, through their visions have potentialities for turning them into Utopia (Nicolas Moulin, Bernard Voïta, Edwin Zwakman…). Either by the use of shifting, altering shapes, framing, darkening, … or any odd vision, the works shown here transform our perception of the world and lead us to look at it in another way. Gabor Osz shows a photograph of a beach, normally a place for leisure, in a warlike vision, having converted a bunker into a camera obscura. The virgin Namibian landscape by Balthasar Burkhard offers possibilities. David Renaud and Philippe Terrier-Hermann present maps which, though realistic, are made unusual by their own point of views. Ayako Yoshimura depicts a new territory, between utopia and heterotopy : a hyper megalopolis combining Tokyo, Shanghai, São Paulo, Chicago, New York and Yokohama; Marie-José Burki presents a scan of the Genevan suburbs. A manure heap by Philippe Gronon plays as a counterpoint to three cliché-like landscape paintings by Lisa Milroy. Sébastian Diaz-Morales’ movie takes us into unknown and unidentified areas, though real. Simon Faithfull’s video showing an abandoned fishing station in the Falkland Islands inhabited again by the native population as well as Neal Beggs’ performance about appropriating public spaces suggest an opportunity for hope. Delphine Bedel has travelled the mythical Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, Gérard Collin-Thiébaud has wandered through Corsica and Valérie Jouve has approached Munster by river, rail and road. With ‘Celebration’, Quirine Racké and Helena Muskens present a town built in 1996 by Disney, which is how a capitalistic firm has seized the concept of Utopia…

Innovation may bring some practical applications contributing to activate some concepts of utopia in its desire of a better ‘living together’ but it ought to be done in respect of community ideals specific to its genesis. Should utopia be applied thanks to innovations only available for an elite, it would result again in a dead end, in the same way as the one which led to the dismantling of the housing schemes buildings of the 60′s and 70′s.

Putting in place utopias based on innovation should benefit to everybody, far from the law-and-order drifts of gated communities or other barrio cerrados. These walled residential areas started in the USA, are developing from Buenos Aires to Cape Town and show a worrying rise in Europe. This fantasized Rhine-Rhône metropolis, in which it would take 20 minutes for a Besançon resident to attend an opera in Dijon or for a Belfort inhabitant to be in Mulhouse thanks to high speed trains is surely a pleasing idea, but on the condition that access to the trains should not be challenged by an elitist commercial policy which would again result in a new failure for Utopia. At least, this is the message which seems to be expressed by the artists and their ‘territorial’ visions!

«Today, the world is too dangerous for anything less than utopia» Richard Buckminster Fuller

Opening: Jan 28th from 8pm to midnight
From 28th January to 26th February 2010: Open from Monday to Friday from 2pm to 7pm (closed from 6th to 23rd February)