University of Minnesota

Mile 853

Barbra Nei

Barbra Nei (born 1960, Zumbrota, MN )

Mile 853, 2006

Glass and steel

16 ft. X 32 ft.

Location: Inside Jones Hall, top floor, east bank campus

The design for the Public Art on Campus laylight commission in the 2003 Jones Hall renovation reflects the work of faculty and researchers at the University of Minnesota. Comprised of contributions from published books, papers, and articles from over 130 staff and faculty members, the work is a visual representation of the University colleges, departments and research centers. Installed in the Admissions Reception Area, the work represents the wealth of choices presented to students of the University.

A map of the Minneapolis campus is incorporated as a central design element in the work, with the river as a metaphor for the movement of thought and ideas through the University schools and research centers. The work’s title, Mile 853, describes the location of the Minneapolis campus on along the banks of the Mississippi River as measured in nautical miles from the beginning of the Upper Mississippi region in Cairo, Illinois. The contour lines defining the landforms in topographic maps of the region are the neural transmitters of this design; those to the west of the river are comprised of texts from the University Department Humanities, Language and the Arts while the lines along the east bank are comprised primarily of texts from Health Sciences, Technology, and the Information Sciences. A Department of Neurology experiment involving the transmission of Alzheimer’s Disease traces the contour of the west bank, and a poem that examines the relationship of geography, art, and religious belief delineates the opposite side of the river.

This ‘map’ of the UMN Minneapolis campus manifests the cacophony of voices generated within the walls of University. Layer upon layer of textual contributions from University schools, departments and research centers constitute the landscape of the design, with each participating faculty and staff member contributing their own vernacular to the dialogue. From School of Management Sciences marketing strategies to School of Education texts defending the constitutional responsibility of elementary school educators, this work explores the range of issues and ideas that define the ever-evolving discourses at the University.

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