Steve Rowell

Comfort in Hydrology


A two-channel moving image work about a recent past and a speculative future of an unconstrained and mutable river,  between the headwaters in the frozen north and the delta in the subtropical south. Filmed on and above what is currently known as Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, and Louisiana during the Great Flood of 2019.

Comfort in Hydrology, Steve Rowell, 2019/2021 (edit), 13 minutes, two channel projection, stereo sound
Locations along the Mississippi River:
  • Lake Itasca, Minnesota
  • Cairo, Illinois
  • New Madrid, Missouri
  • Plaquemine, Louisiana

Archival footage: “Mississippi River Flood of 1927” Department of Defense, Signal Corps, 1936
Public domain / National Archives catalog no.:ARC 24699, NAIL 111-H-1194

Music: “Broken Levee Blues” Lonnie Johnson, 1928
Public domain / Okeh Phonograph Corporation catalog no. 8618

“In the early morning light a strange mournful beauty hung over the lagoon; the sombre green-black fronds of the gymnosperms, intruders from the Triassic past and the half-submerged white-faced buildings of the 20th century still reflected together in the dark mirror of the water, the two interlocking worlds apparently suspended at some junction in time, the illusion momentarily broken when a giant water spider cleft the oily surface a hundred yards away.”

- from The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, 1962