A window display by Mike Curran for Pancake House
4553 S. 34th Avenue, May 19th - May 26th, best viewed 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. daily
The bald eagle is an ambivalent image in Mike Curran’s Plumage. It appears in found footage as a harbinger of patriotic camp and hypermasculine overcompensation. It is also a weapon and a warning, signifying imperialism, war, and “Freedom.” The eagle reminds us of the troubled American conservation movement of which Roosevelt was a figurehead, which cast aside Indigenous land management practices to construct and preserve a mythical wilderness.
Of course, the eagle did not ask to bear this weight. It is also a formerly endangered animal that you may see for yourself as you embark on Curran’s self-guided tour. Curran walks us through a place that eagles call home -- 73 eagle nests reside along the portion of the Mississippi River that flows through the Twin Cities. On this tour we encounter eagles re-inscribed across the landscape in ways both mundane and macabre, from an eagle decoration topping a mortuary to an account of animal cruelty at the ghostly former site of Longfellow Zoological Gardens. Coupled with the window installation, this tour offers viewers a contemporary meditation on the eagle’s symbolism as well as its material presence.
A mature bald eagle weighs 14 pounds. But in this nation, an eagle is a heavy being, overburdened with symbolic meaning—its likeness adorns pistol grips and presidential podiums. At the same time, chemical contaminants from nearby industrial dumping sites leach into the bloodstream of eagles nesting along the Mississippi River. Plumage addresses both our adoration of the eagle and the desecration of its habitat. A video installation in Pancake House’s storefront window combines found YouTube clips with text from a 1908 speech from Teddy Roosevelt entitled “Conservation as a National Duty.” Visitors are also invited on a self-guided, 1.5 mile-long walking tour that notices the natural history of eagles and the particular ways they are embedded in the local landscape.
Mike Curran grew up in Portland, Maine, and now lives in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Geography from Macalester College in 2018. His work often involves sifting through the waste of the Anthropocene to deconstruct dominant cultural symbols and our frayed connection with the natural world. Recent projects have used satellite imagery to explore the relationship between golf courses and prisons, and hacked surveillance footage to better understand contemporary American landscapes. Beyond his individual practice, he produces shows at Normal Residential Purposes, and works in habitat restoration along the Mississippi River. His arts writing has been published in TEMP/reviews.