Skyway began an exploration in drawing out what was happening within and without me as I observed the relationship between a built and natural environment. I wanted to use the traditional space of the cinema theater in an unconventional way by fragmenting the screen into three frames, so that I could work spatially with the idea of distance.

East Chicago is an area along lake Michigan connected to Chicago through the Skyway Bridge that crosses the Calumet River. It is an industrial area containing steel and petrol plants, historic neighborhoods and recently developed casinos––a place that was a major part of a chain of production and now part of chain of consumption. As I filmed from various spaces––river and port, hotel and casino, train and car, beach and golf course, industrial complex and bar––a thread of loneliness connected these places.

To reinforce this feeling, I introduced the figure of the filmmaker, myself, entering the frame at moments during the film. This was a narrative device used to symbolize the self, unable to find orientation within an environment that was exploited and then abandoned by industry, where a misuse of place continues through newly developed casinos. 

The attempt in joining a narrative thread to a meditative documentation on place and time proved to be problematic as I tried to shift the viewers experience without breaking their attention. Staged movement such as looking out of the hotel window, or a figure carrying a suitcase countered this desire. But when I moved more naturally within the frame, allowing place to direct my activity, such as during the projection of maps on the hotel bed or where traces of my body moves across the three video channels, a level of focus was maintained that would shift but not break the viewer’s attention. The use of this narrative device opened possibilities to reform these conceptual and formal themes. 

Production Assistance: Georgie Schaefer

*Filmed in the Calumet Region, along the the border of Lake Michigan.
– Ameristar Casino, East Chicago, IN
– ArcelorMittal’s Indiana Harbor Works
– BP Whiting Refinery, IN
– Calumet Park and Harbor, Chicago, IL
– Chicago Skyway Bridge, IL
– Lost March Golf Course, IN
– Majestic Star Casino, Gary, IN
– Marktown, IN
– Midtown Station, Whiting, IN
– Whiting Park, IN

Some History of the Area:
– Whiting, IN, is home to the fourth largest oil refinery in the nation, run by BP. This site began operating in the 1890s, and was the first refinery owned by Standard Oil of Indiana, which went on to become Amoco before it merged with BP.

– Inland Steel was an integrated steel company that reduced iron ore to steel. Its sole steel mill was located in East Chicago, Indiana, on the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal and a large landfill protruding out into Lake Michigan. The steel mill’s shoreline location enabled it to take in steel-making commodities, such as iron ore, coal, and limestone, by lake freighter. 

– Ameristar and Majestic Star Casino and Hotel are situated between these major industrial sections of East Chicago.

– Marktown, IN was designed by Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1917 for industrialist Clayton Mark (Chairman of the Board of the Steel and Tube Company of America.). It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The neighborhood is an example of pre-World War I worker housing designed to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding American work force and their families during the great industrial revolution.

Sway: 2013 Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition (Ferrari, Somers & Harris-Trevor), Logan Center for the Arts Gallery & Screening Room, The University of Chicago, IL, USA, May 18–26, 2013, group exhibit. Exhibited Attraction, 2012; D(z)iga, 2012; Ferragosto, 2013; Skyway, 2012–13; and Parabola, 2013.