Ojibwe; United States, born 1979
Romania, born 1971
Hydrologic Unit Code 071200
Multi-channel video, loop
Courtesy of the artists
Commissioned by the University of Michigan Museum of Art for Watershed
Andrea Carlson and Rozalinda Borcilă’s video installation presents an encounter with wetland banks scattered throughout Chicago’s wetland market, the legal name for which is Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 071200. Wetland banks are a new kind of wetscape, constructed specifically to generate stacks of financial assets (credits) that can be bought and sold in specialized markets. Across a region called a wetland market, credit swapping allows speculators to trade wetland destruction (debit) in one place for wetland banking (credit) in another. Like carbon offsets, wetland banking exacerbates the very environmental destruction it claims to mitigate: the more wetland destruction, the greater the expansion of wetland markets. The first entirely speculative wetland bank in the United States was built in HUC 071200 and it became the blueprint for the federal rollout of wetland markets.
The city of Chicago itself emerged through the violent transformation of Indigenous wetlands into dry parcels of real estate and a canal system. Wetland bankers across HUC 071200 state their developments are restorations of “pre-settlement-conditions.” However, Carlson and Borcilă conceptualize this geography as “the present future tense of settler colonialism–a river that is a hydraulically engineered canal system, a watershed that is a wetland credit market.” Through their stacked landscapes, the artists consider how systems of monetization perpetuate the violent colonization of Indigenous lands.
Watershed at the University of Michigan Museum of Art
Watershed was on display June 4–October 23, 2022. It brought recent work from fifteen contemporary artists to UMMA for an exhibition that immersed visitors in the interconnected histories, present lives, and imagined futures of the Great Lakes region.