"In the Fields of Rotting Giants" | Exhibition & Artist Talk

On Sunday, August 26th, the Chicago Park District will host the opening reception for an art exhibition titled “In the Fields of Rotting Giants”, featuring the artwork of Mark Banks. The exhibition will be held from 5-9 pm, with an artist talk being delivered at 7 pm. This site-specific event will capitalize on the symbolic power of the Ford Calumet Environmental Center at Big Marsh Park. Situated within the remnants of what was once a heavily industrialized landscape, Big Marsh Park is an ongoing remediation and conservation effort aimed at restoring the natural wetland and woodland habitat, following generations of abuse and neglect. Banks’ work studies the history of the southeast side of Chicago, an area once dominated by the steel industry. He was born at the same time that the mills began closing, after a century of production. His life has therefore been caught within a tension between a working-class sensibility born out of a century of hard labor and a contemporary absence of any real-world tangibility to which that sensibility might apply. In the age of the rustbelt, a time of debt economics and global labor outsourcing, there is a gap in experience where old working-class sensibilities and new working-class realities do not overlap. Further, in the Anthropocene, our industry appears through a new lens, wrought with new implications. The slow violence of industry, whose escalation seems unstoppable today, appears in a concentrated form along the southern tip of Lake Michigan. There, the landscape has been permanently scarred, down to the molecular level. Today, after decades of neglect, new efforts are underway to re-instantiate heavy industry, this time under the mollifying rubric of “green development”. It is crucial, however, to recognize that just like their predecessors, industrialists offer nothing but extraction, pollution, and exploitation. This project links together concepts of life, land, and time. The joining of this triad of concepts to the history of the steel industry generates tensions while allowing theoretical connections to unfold. The consideration of life, land, and time in America also necessarily points to colonialism and genocide, as well as their twin processes of extermination and enslavement, which were the founding gestures of the industry of the “New World”. In considering those expansionist ideologies, we must challenge the separation of “Man” from “Nature” that European settlers violently imposed upon indigenous lands, because it is from this separation that the possibility of industry historically emerges. It is through this separation that our contemporary misery has been born. Consequently, it is against this separation that the artist’s work struggles for survival and happiness today.