StreamLines is a major new multi-faceted project to foster curiosity and exploration of the Indianapolis waterways. The project’s conceptual framework and visual components were conceived and designed by artist Mary Miss to highlight the major tributaries of the White River through contextual, immersive, and game-like experience of the sites and their unique characteristics. StreamLines has been made possible by a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Advancing Informal Science Learning Program (AISL).
StreamLines is situated on five sites, in diverse communities along tributaries of the White River. Miss’ sculptural elements reveal the natural systems and infrastructure that impact the Indianapolis waterways and encourage exploration of the area. Located in residential and industrial neighborhoods, the sites were selected in partnership with Indianapolis citizens participating in the ROW (Reclaiming Our Waterways) initiative.
Each installation includes a large mirror positioned above a concrete pedestal, and set in the middle of a 14’ diameter gravel circle. Stepping up onto the pedestal and looking up into the mirror, the visitor sees her reflection, the landscape behind her, and black 3-d words embedded in the ground below. Red “balance beams” draw the viewer’s attention out into the surroundings, encouraging a physical exploration of the site and mental reflection on the connections between water and our daily lives. Text on the sites includes poetry, scientific and historical facts, riddles, jokes, prompts, and questions. The text also directs visitors to an app and website [streamlines.org] that enrich the potential for learning and engagement. Site themes address water and its many states in the environment, the importance of water to Indianapolis’ development and history, water infrastructure and the connection to the larger watershed.
StreamLines includes programming such as music, dance and poetry, merging science and the arts to advance the community’s understanding and appreciation of Indianapolis’ waterways. Composers Hanna Been, Olga Bell, Stuart Hyatt, Roberto Lange, Moses Sumney, and Matthew Skjonsberg created original musical works inspired by each of the locations. Choreographer Cynthia Pratt (Professor of Dance, Butler University) has also been commissioned to develop a series of new dances that will be performed by Butler Department of Dance students. Indiana poets Catherine Bowman, Alessandra Lynch, and Adrian Matejka penned original pieces for each site. Special public programs such as poetry readings, dance and music performances will deepen the engagement of visitors and neighborhood residents.
The September 24 launch marked the beginning of a two year test period that includes groundbreaking research into how the arts can impact learning and influence behavior around important environmental challenges. New Knowledge Organization Ltd. will conduct this research and evaluation.
StreamLines creates community spaces that give neighborhoods and local businesses opportunities to connect to the river system and discover how the waterways are integrated into their daily lives. The goal is to arouse curiosity and a desire to visit all five locations. In combination, these sites will reveal aspects of the city’s water system that may not have been previously legible. By dispersing sites around the city, StreamLines will initiate new levels of water awareness throughout Indianapolis.
StreamLines was conceived by Mary Miss and City as Living Laboratory in partnership with Butler University, The New Knowledge Organization, and The daVinci Pursuit, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, IUPUI Center for Urban Health, The Kinetic Project, Lifelong Learning Group, New Knowledge Organization, Poet’s House and Reconnecting Our Waterways (ROW).The StreamLines installations offer layers of interactions providing a wide range of entry points and experiences. In addition to these sculptural interventions, the project includes programming of performances, readings, concerts, an interactive website, and an app to foster further exploration of the waterways.
Located in residential and industrial neighborhoods, StreamLines’ five sites were selected in partnership with Indianapolis citizens participating in the ROW (Reclaiming Our Waterways) initiative.
Approaching each installation, the visitor is immediately drawn to the center, where a large mirror (4’ diameter) is positioned above a concrete pedestal, and set in the middle of a 14’ diameter gravel circle. Stepping up onto the pedestal and looking up into the mirror, the visitor sees her reflection, the landscape behind her, and black 3-d words embedded in the ground below. The 3-d black words radiate out from the pedestals, their trajectories amplified by red beams, secondary clusters of small pedestals, and mirrors. The red “balance beams” draw the viewer’s attention out into the surroundings, encouraging a physical exploration of the site and mental reflection on the connections between water and our daily lives.
At each site, the three states of water – ICE, VAPOR, WATER are written on the surface of the mirrors. Words on the ground express the themes of each different location. They are formed of reverse letters, which are legible in the reflection in the mirror above.
Site themes address water and its many states in the environment, the importance of water to Indianapolis’ development and history, water infrastructure and the connection to the watershed.
At the outer edges of the installations, smaller mirrors (18” in diameter) and small pedestals in groups of two or three present texts, much of it legible only in reflection, such as poetry, scientific and historical facts, riddles, jokes, prompts, and questions. These texts also direct visitors to the app and website for additional information. For example:
Mirror theme: George Pogue (1965-1821)
Mirror byline: One of the first white settlers of Indianapolis.
Prompt 1: In Pogue’s time, this area was a swamp. Close your eyes for 20 seconds. Imagine what it looked like here before the river was rerouted underground.
Prompt 2: Pogue disappeared while looking for his lost horses. Speculate what might have happened to him.
Implicitly and explicitly each site refers to the others – encouraging an exploration of the immediate surroundings and a journey to discover the connections, similarities and differences between each site – as a means to further highlight our dependence on the visible and invisible manifestations of water.
Both informative and playful, StreamLines is a platform for engagement and not simply an end in and of itself. The installations make these out-of-the-way, unassuming pockets of neighborhood sites into places of exploration and conversation, creativity and investigation.