Artists Take On Detroit - Projects for The Tricentennial
Joseph Wesner


For Wesner, the Detroit River is the single defining feature of the city that has remained constant over the last three hundred years, marking the border of the city and the country as well as serving as a place for industry and recreation. In his installation the river becomes a place to experience movement and tranquility. Video projections, edited to play at varying tempos, place the viewer in the position, virtually, of the oarsman, who marks time through rhythmic strokes and sees the water’s surface break. Neither land nor a horizon are visible, but movement is implied in the sound of rowing—drips, splashes, and the rattling of the hardware.

Wesner’s installation was inspired by the accounts of early French explorers, or voyageurs, including Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who navigated the river by canoe in the early 1700s. Cadillac’s accounts of his exploration describe an idyll in the lands and waters of Detroit. Wesner returns us to a pre-industrial experience of the water passage. Reductive in form, the installation transports and engages us in the rhythms of a journey.

> Downloadable QuickTime Version of Installation Video (29.9mb)

Project Image

Joseph Wesner
Installation, 2001

> Excerpt from Installation Video
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> Installation Slideshow (Flash Required)

> Artist’s Biography