Real and lasting change is required to create the cultural shift necessary to overcome the climate crisis. I believe it takes reencountering engaging experiences from many perspectives, and this is where the arts play a key role. Here I talk about an encounter with Carry the Earth that reinforces this in my own life.
I live 4 blocks from the Gowanus Canal, New York City’s first designated superfund site and one of the most polluted waterways in the United States. It’s also slated for the largest rezoning in New York City in 20 years. Yet it remains a toxic area. Gowanus can serve as a microcosm of larger development issues and begs some important questions.
When brownstones were built, one’s wealth and status were determined by how many steps there were up to the living quarters. At that time, there was no trash removal, animals roamed the streets and the city sewer system was just beginning to be built. The streets were strewn with garbage, food scraps, chamber pot waste and animal excrement. The elevation lifted you out of that environment…if you could afford it.
2018 was a year of shocking climate events. Our work merging creative envisioning through artistic practices, action oriented movements, and reflective thinking is more timely than ever. This critical work helps us to not only make sense of the world, but to make a difference in our communities and in society. Here are some reflections and ways we are working in 2019 toward making the world a more sustainable place.
The arts and artists provide creative options to problems that often times have otherwise prescriptive solutions, which might not make the most sense in the future. I call this a failure of imagination, and while none of us can predict the future with absolute certainty, we can, and need to, think forward and holistically. Here I talk about this in relation to developments of Future Currents: The LA River, a project in development.
The past month I’ve been in residency at Governor’s Island, a 172 acre island in New York harbor, with Works on Water and Underwater New York, two organizations who focus on water as a point of departure to further examine ecological change and the city respectively. Continuing my work with plastic bags, my objective was to create a glacier-like structure out of bags and begin to develop ideas for the performance piece the glacier will be featured in, We Are Drowning. What I landed on surprised me, opening new pathways.
Since 2010 I’ve been developing works around particular geographic areas. In 2010, Your Planet brought performers, participants and audiences to Coney Island and Manhattan Beach to explore the shifting environment of sand and tides and witness a location in which debris washes ashore. This began my obsession with plastic pollution and a practice of integrating community actions into each project. It also began an investigation into water and shorelines…
I was recently in Los Angeles scouting sites for an upcoming project along the LA River. My last stop was Golden Shore Marine Biological Reserve to participate in Friends of the Los Angeles River’s annual clean up. While the majority of volunteers collecting debris gathered on the protected wetland side; I opted for the rocky terrain running along the river. Scaling down the rocks toward the water, I stopped at a sizeable gap, crouched down and began to collect piece after piece of Styrofoam. The more I dug the more was exposed. Quickly a quandary arose, do I go for large handfuls and include the natural debris (leaves, reeds and sticks) the Styrofoam is intertwined in? Do I just go after larger pieces? I spent about 20 minutes at this one 12x12 inch nook and, minus a fairly intact cup, a few straws and a Visine bottle, I seemingly did not make a dent here.