Across the Mississippi River from St. Louis’s Gateway Arch, a symbol of westward expansion, one can find vestiges of the largest pre-historic settlement north of Mexico. The Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois were built by a civilization which flourished for centuries before its mysterious decline. Both of these sites represent the apex or pinnacle—in a topographical and metaphorical sense—of the civilizations that constructed them.
In her new multi-channel video, Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund FellowAndréa Stanislav surveys these and other sites in the region including the Sugarloaf Mound in south St. Louis, the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and the Old Des Peres Presbyterian Church (once a stop on the Underground Railroad known as the Old Stone Meeting House). Converger, 2016, focuses in on local landscapes that reflect histories—often problematic ones—of American empire and expansion. Stanislav’s work examines the rise and fall of empires and the relationship of these human histories to the environment in which they transpire. Birds, such as eagles and falcons, figure in the video as representatives of the natural world and as witnesses to (and victims of) the vicissitudes of human history.
Stanislav’s video installation consists of four separate projections in which the camera mimics the flight of a bird, swooping high and low, along four routes from north, south, east, and west, to chart an aerial path to the museum. Ultimately the films converge outside the museum entrance at The Apotheosis of St. Louis—the equestrian statue of St. Louis’s namesake. In Converger, the head of St. Louis’s horse appears to be invisible, or, in the artist’s words, “disappears into infinity.” In this instance the horse, a recurring symbol in Stanislav’s work, can be seen to symbolize empire and its glorification through monumental sculpture. This intervention is therefore an allusion, as the artist notes, to the final failures of dominant structures.
Converger conflates the geographic and temporal landscape of the region. Crossing time and space, Stanislav’s video unearths historical convergences between nature and human civilization, and between past, present, and future.
Converger will be on view March24-June 19, 2016 in Currents 112: Andréa Stanislav: Convergence Infinité.
-Molly Moog, research assistant, modern and contemporary art