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Associate Member
Margaret Cogswell

River Fugues is an ongoing project exploring the vital and increasingly politicized role of water in our world today. River Fugues utilize the musical structure of a fugue to weave together video and audio components into installations exploring the interdependency of people, industry and rivers. All River Fugues entail regional research, recording images and narratives with video and audio, then edited into fugues and integrated into sculptural installations.

River Fugues began in 2003 by exploring the river and steel mills in Cleveland, Ohio. Lured by fire, water and the imposing presence of volcanic steel mills at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Fugues emerged as an installation inspired by and incorporating generations of stories reflecting the life and dreams embodied by the Cuyahoga. Cuyahoga Fugues was followed by Hudson Weather Fugues, Buffalo River Fugues (Buffalo, NY 2006), River Fugues (Brussels, Belgium; Monaco; Chicago Field Museum; Hope College, Holland, MI, 2007-09), Hudson River Fugues (Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY, 2009-2010), Mississippi River Fugues (Art Museum University of Memphis, Tennessee 2008), Cuyahoga Fugues Re-Visited (Cleveland, Ohio 2012) and Wyoming River Fugues (Art Museum, University of Wyoming 2012).

While the initial process parallels that of a documentary filmmaker, in the studio my mentors are found in composers and poets. Of particular significance are Glen Gould and his narrative fugue, The Idea of the North, along with Anne Carson and her prose poem, The Anthropology of Water. Both artists stretch the boundaries of language and music and challenge my thinking as I seek to explore visual parallels in the development of my own fugues. Often poignant elegies, these works reflect the complex and changing relationship of a society to its industries and rivers, and strive to be a contributing artistic voice in a larger conversation addressing issues of water.

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