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Artist Interview: Introducing “Ippississim”

To continue our highlight of projects and majestic creations, it is necessary to acknowledge the mightiest of American waterways, the life and current of the Twin Cities: The Mississippi River. Ever present, this rushing force of water is stage to a very wonderful force of art:

Colin Kloecker, Shanai Matteson, Ady Olson

What will people experience on the Padelford for Ippississim?

Ippississim is a sunrise de-tour of the upside down river.  From the moment guests board the Jonathan Padelford in the dark of night to the moment they disembark in the morning light, they’ll be transported through time and place, guided by a tapestry of hidden stories, natural histories and invisible geographies mapped to the stretch of Mississippi between Downtown St. Paul and its confluence with the Minnesota. These stories, shared through a free broadsheet, are inspired by historical research, past projects (like  HYPERLINK “” Mississippi Megalops and  HYPERLINK “” River City Revue) and conversations with contemporary artists, scientists and storytellers. Guests will be invited to explore the publication at their own pace as they float along on a substance that suspends them between earth and sky.

Your first project for Northern Spark was the Mississippi Megalops in 2011. What continues to interest you about the river? And what do you believe the significance of the river is to this festival as well as to art (in general)? Why the scientific/natural perspective?

Inhabitants of this place have always lived in relationship to the Mississippi. The river has sustained us, shaped our lives and our connections to one another, and has been an important conveyer of hopes, fears, possibilities and actual people and things. It’s immensely important ecologically, culturally, spiritually and  economically – yet many are unaware of it intertwined and sometimes conflicted meanings.
The Mississippi Megalops sought to engage participants with the river in new ways, through the projects of collaborating artists, scientists and storytellers who presented unique ways of seeing the river. Ippississim is similar, but in this case, we’ve tried to create a multi-dimensional account of the living river over time and place that acknowledges the complexities, conflicts and curiosities of this particular locale. Histories and meanings come in layers here, which are revealed in the geological strata of the riverbanks and in the language and stories that people have passed on through time (or in some cases, that have gone unacknowledged). Some of these stories are familiar, others are invisible, but potent. It’s interesting to think of the layer we’re creating right now within our contemporary urban culture. Centuries from now, what stories will people be telling about our time on, around and in the Mississippi?

We’re interested in bringing together diverse perspectives, and creating platforms for exchange. Art and science both pose important questions about human culture, natural systems and future possibilities. Northern Spark is one moment where these things can come together.

How is the experience of the river different in the middle of the night or at dawn? Why be on a boat at that time?
Nighttime lends power and mystery to stories. It’s the time for sleep and dreams and surreal voyages of the imagination. It’s why parents tell children stories at bedtime and why we listen to stories around the campfire. Darkness opens up the imagination. At night the river has a magical quality: winds have died down, noises are hushed, and you can hear the water slipping past the bow. The stillness of the night provides a perfect dreamlike backdrop for floating gently down a river and contemplating the stories it has to tell. As the sun rises we’ll enter a new day and carry those stories with us into our waking lives.