8 Places You Are Right Now (Terrain Biennial)
Custom lawn signs
12” x 18” each
Where are you right now? No matter how you respond to that question, it is not the only possible answer. A place is nothing more than a meaning adhered to a space, and any number of meanings can be layered onto a single location. We may be aware of such meanings or not, we may celebrate them or ignore them; regardless, they are all there, existing right on top of each other. Where we are is, in a sense, where we choose to be.
8 Places You Are Right Now is a recurring installation which shifts form with each iteration. This one was created for the 2021 Terrain Biennial, which brings art onto the front lawns, porches, and stoops of homes across the country. Each lawn sign names eight places where the front lawn in front of 1838 Wesley Ave, Evanston, IL is located. The color scheme of the signs were drawn from the Google Streetview image of the address. The font, Highway Gothic, is the standard typeface used for street signs by the City of Evanston.
Below are descriptions for each of the eight places identified:
The Neshnabé (also called the Potawatomi or Bodéwadmi) lived in this region for centuries, alongside the Ojibwe and the Ottawa, the other two tribal members of the Council of Three Fires. During the 19th century, Euro-American settlers forcibly removed the tribe hundreds of miles west to a reservation in Kansas. The legality of this land seizure is highly questionable.
Lake Chicago is a prehistoric proglacial lake, formed by the Wisconsin Glacier as it retreated northwards around 13,000 years ago; this spot would have been the shallows on the lake’s western edge. As the glacier continued to withdraw, the current formation of the Great Lakes emerged and the slightly narrower Lake Michigan came into being.
Illinois has been nicknamed the Prairie State since at least 1842, a logical moniker at the time as the majority of its area was covered by natural prairies. It makes less sense in 2021, however: less than 1% of the state’s original prairieland still exists, having been lost to urbanization, industry, and agriculture.
The current owner of 1838 Wesley Avenue grew up in a small town near Calumet City, Illinois. While this is a distance of only about 35 miles, he says that the value placed on “culture and learning and inclusivity” here makes it feel much farther. Now it is where he and his family live and take part in community life; now, it is their home.
The French geographer Jean Gottman coined the term “megalopolis” in 1961 to mean a region continaing multiple adjacent cities and their overlapping industrial and suburban hinterlands. While there are no definitive boundaries to these regions, the Great Lakes Megalopolis covers much of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and the southern parts of Michigan and Wisconsin.
The State of Illinois is currently divided into 18 congressional districts, each of which elects one representative to the United States House of Representatives. Due to a population decline noted in the 2020 Census, however, this number will be reduced to 17 in 2022. The 9th District has been represented by Democrat Janice Shackowsky since 1999.
Water runoff from this lawn drains into the North Shore Channel, a man-made canal constructed between 1907 and 1910. Water in the channel flows southward into the Chicago River and, eventually, into the Mississippi River and out into the Gulf of Mexico. Freshwater from the Mississippi continues in a concentrated stream out through the Straits of Florida and into the open Atlantic Ocean.
The City of Evanston comprises of multiple zones, each of which comes with its own rules and regulations around construction, occupany levels, and general useage. R1 is the lowest building density permitted by the city (the minimum lot size is 7,200 square feet), and is expressly intended to keep the neighborhood dominated by single-family homes with lawns.