In Jen Bervin’s large-scale installation River, a hand-sewn model of the Mississippi River in silver sequins, you see the river reversed, mapped from the geocentric perspective— from inside the earth’s interior looking up at the riverbed. The scale is one inch to one mile. It took ten years to make, and the same amount of time to sew each section of river that it would to walk the real one.
Toni Morrison writes: “You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places…Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods’ is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
The piece has a relationship to Bervin’s father, whose ashes were scattered overlooking the river in 1980, and to an experience nearly thirty years later: the inverse of mourning—a sudden joy.
The archipelagoes of the delta, south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico, are mirrored. Wherever the piece is exhibited, the people and the space around them will be reflected.
The first exhibition of the entire piece will be installed on the ceiling of the I.M. Pei space at the Des Moines Art Center in October 2018, curated by Alison Ferris.