Over the next two months, Miriam Karraker will be in residency on Minneapolis's Nicollet Mall and will consider the ways it has been archived, and propose new archival potential. Read Miriam's statement about her residency and the theoretical framework that will guide her research below.
Walking Minneapolis’s Nicollet Mall is a perplexing experience. In theory, a downtown is supposed to be a destination, but the only times I find myself here are when I am on my way somewhere else. Until recently, the longest amount of time I have spent on the mall is maybe ten minutes while waiting for a bus. Nicollet Mall is first and foremost a pedestrian and transit mall (the first of its kind in the U.S., in fact) and can be understood within a broader urban renewal initiative meant to draw consumers back to downtown in order to compete with suburban shopping centers. Over the last fifty or so years, Nicollet Mall has been renovated three times. And with each renovation comes a new way of moving through it.
Lately, I’ve been taking walks up and down the mall with no real purpose other than to observe and be in the space. Michel de Certeau’s chapter “Walking in the City” in The Practice of Everyday Life makes a case for walking as a practice that produces space, which actualizes the possibilities of a place:
To walk is to lack a place. It is the indefinite process of being absent and in search of an appropriation. The moving about that the city multiplies and concentrates makes the city itself an immense social experience of lacking a place- an experience that is, to be sure, broken up into countless tiny deportations (displacements and walks), compensated for by the relationships and intersections of these exoduses that intertwine and create an urban fabric, and placed under the sign of what ought to be, ultimately, the place but is only a name, the City.
de Certeau argues that people resist the structures set before them by governments, city planners, etc. I do not often frequent Nicollet Mall, and since visiting the space and The Nicollet Mall Collection (housed in the special collections of the Downtown Central Library), I have found myself wandering through both, more or less in accordance with the designed purpose of each. In this wandering I can only access and document so much from my limited perspective.
If it is true that forests of gestures are manifest in the streets, their movement cannot be captured in a picture, nor can the meaning of their movements be circumscribed in a text. This, de Certeau asserts (quoting Derrida), produces a wandering of meaning, where the city is fragmented, erased, exaggerated, or otherwise distorted. With this in mind, how can movement serve as a lens and method for doing research, and how does this shape documents and archives on or pertaining to Nicollet Mall? During my residency, I will consider ways of exploring this question.
Miriam Karraker writes, performs, collaborates, and is based in Minneapolis. Lately, her work has focused on improvisation, embodiment, and documentation. Her writing has appeared in DIAGRAM, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, MnArtists, Full Stop, and elsewhere. She was a recipient of the 2018 Academy of American Poets James Wright Prize and has been a resident at The Lighthouse Works (NY). Learn more about her practice at miriamkarraker.com.
Photo "Looking North on Nicollet Mall from Near 8th Street" is used courtesy of the Hennepin County Library.