Grantee Project: The Coiled Serpent Mound

Artist: Santiago X + Chicago Public Art Group
Neighborhood: Albany Park
Art Type: Land Art
Grant Amount: $70,000

Coiled Serpent Mound

The Coiled Serpent has been growing for the past four years, remediating and transforming a post-industrial site into a destination for self-contemplation and centering.

Chicago was a major center for Native peoples long before European settlers, thanks to the transportation nexus created by Lake Michigan and the rivers. To celebrate this history, in 2017 the Chicago Public Art Group, American Indian Center, Portage Park Neighborhood Association, and other community partners founded the Northwest Portage Walking Museum, now named 4000N.

This conceptual museum stretches for nine miles along Irving Park Road along a portage between the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers. Rooted in respect for Native peoples, the route is anchored by earthworks at each river designed by Indigenous artist X. Through collaborative workshops with Native youth, he designed a great serpent in two parts. Together, the earthworks imply the motion of a great serpent weaving in and out of our world, stitching together a threshold between land and water.

The first part is the serpent’s head and forebody, “POKTO ČINTO (Serpent Twin)”, which was built along the Des Plaines River in Schiller Woods in 2019 and dedicated on Indigenous Peoples Day that year.

The bulk of the serpent body “FOLOLOKAH:CIN ČINTO (The Coiled Serpent)” was built in 2021 at Horner Park. It was formed with 750 cubic yards of reclaimed soil, and is 90 feet in diameter and 15 feet tall. A spiral path leads to a small platform at the top with a view of the Chicago River.

By providing a space for education and contemplation through interaction with the riverbank, indigenous plants, and an elevated view of the surrounding landscape, X hopes that viewers will feel the contrast between the natural environment and the human-made city, and be inspired to take action to make all environments sustainable for all species.

An augmented digital reality experience called “Augment Earth” will allow viewers to experience stories, songs, and images laid on top of the actual landscape around the Coiled Serpent. When viewers open a custom-made app on their smartphone and point it at various physical markers around the mound, the GPS location will trigger a specific video or audio for that location: perhaps a story about water by an Ojibwe elder speaking in Anishinaabemowin, images of native wetlands plants at your feet, or a re-creation of the pre-settlement landscape.

E(art)H Chicago support is for native plantings, a stewardship plan, and community programming to help bring the Coiled Serpent project to completion.

Santiago X, recently renamed X, is an Indigenous futurist and multidisciplinary artist specializing in land, architectural, and new media installation. He is an enrolled citizen of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana (Koasati) and Indigenous Chamoru from the Island of Guam U.S.A (Hacha’Maori).

X has exhibited and designed locally and internationally, and received a Bachelors of Environmental Design from the University of Colorado, a Masters of Architecture from the University of Southern California, and a Masters of Fine Arts Studio in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.