Curtis Hamilton (b. 1983, US)
b/w offset on newsprint, 16 pages, unbound 13” x 10.5”, ed. 1000
Words drown in the Gowanus Canal. The histories, the myths, the cries foul and the pleas for remediation, all spill downhill, discharged with the rest of the excess. Oil, cinder dust, scrap metal, shit, urine, and everything paper thin and not tied down settles here at the bottom of the valley, giving the water its scum skin, thick enough to float anything for a moment. The temptation to point to things is choked back. There is a tin can half-full of poisonous adjectives bobbing amidst its own pure chemical explanation. To call it anything would mean opening my mouth and tasting it, tasting the new name it is becoming.
On the Banks of the Gowanus (2011)
Aron Louis Cohen
Materials foraged from Gowanus, Video (13:00)
5’ x 4” x 4”
Waiting for a bite and moving slowly, on fish time, that is the thing. Whether the bobber ever moves does not matter. I endeavor to stay for a few hours at the water’s edge in a different sense of being than our daily lives. This is what attracts me to the pursuit. I wonder how others use this mass of water. Does water time and fish time not affect them, as it affects me? Isn’t our idealization of nature wrapped up in what it does to us? Does the soul not suffer from too little exposure? We look at this place as ruined, but as it exists, It forever remains a place of nature.
Mare Liberum Kayak (2011)
Mare Liberum (Ben Cohen, Dylan Gauthier, Stephan von Muehlen)
Locally sourced bamboo, plywood, re-purposed vinyl museum signage, zip ties, epoxy, and upholstery tacks
14’ x 36”
This is a Liberum Kayak (2011), designed by the Mare Liberum collective. The bamboo was sourced and harvested in Queens, and the vinyl is repurposed signage from a museum. The kayak was hand built, and has proven to be stable and sound after several earlier (less-successful) attempts. Mare Liberum, a collaboration between Ben Cohen, DylanGauthier and Stephan von Muehlen, is a collaborative printmaking, boatbuilding and activism project which we created in response to large-scale gentrification plans for the Gowanus area in the mid 2000’s. We started building improvised watercraft out of found materials, mainly plywood salvaged from construction sites around the neighborhood. It was a way for us to get out onto and explore the Canal, in order to experience that site’s particular state of natural, industrial and post-industrial landscapes, its waste, toxins, detritus and curious lifeforms. We wanted to go there because it was open space, and probably also because many were vying for it at the time. These boats allowed us to make work there as artists, and to have access to a rare – albeit highly toxic – sanctuary in the middle of the city. As part of our practice, we also print and distribute broadsheets and one-off editions that combine historical narratives of place with our own methods, research, and stories of our explorations on the water. These broadsheets often include our own boat plans that simplify traditional boatbuilding methods and lower the technical barriers for others seeking to get into closer contact with the city’s waterways.
Postcards from the Gowanus (2011)
Sayler / Morris for The Canary Project
Postcards and metal rack
5’5” x 12” x 12”
“The canal is tidal. If you didn’t paddle you would float one way and then another. Thinking to yourself: ‘To imagine is a form of survival.’”
Sayler / Morris for The Canary Project
4” x 6”
Most of what we might say about the Gowanus, is in the text to our video “Gouwane”. We were uncertain and puzzled enough about our experience to feel that we could only work out our thoughts by putting them into the voice of another person. A further, more concrete note: Throughout the project we found ourselves thinking about the HighLine park in relation to Gowanus. By the 1980’s, the HighLine, once part of Manhattan’s industrial infrastructure, was abandoned and left to return to a semi-wild state. Then in recent years it was redeveloped for recreational and commercial use. Will the same happen to the Gowanus Canal once the Superfund clean up is complete? Something lost, something gained. The margins move.
Lou Wright (American, 1989)
Found materials, French square glass vials, salvaged wood, low-VOC stain, galvanized steel brackets, sand, ash, sawdust, adhesive, index cards, ink
16” x 18”
When we were on the canal, all of us were struck by the material scale of the place. The industrial world, like the natural one, takes place on a spatial scale that most individuals do not experience in their daily lives, and to be immersed in the confluence of these environments - natural and industrial - is very unlike any other urban experience. The stratification of rust, lime, and algae on the iron bulkheads recorded the tidal rise of the canal, commemorating the repetition inherent in a place like this. Water comes in and out, cement mixers turn around and around. Oil derricks far away pulse up and down, subway cars skitter back and forth. Our lives, as we live them, seem like linear progressions of moments, things that happen once, preceded and followed by different things. But on the Gowanus, everything that is happening has happened before, and will happen again.
In my work, I tried to capture some of the weird materiality of the Canal, but also to communicate its uniqueness and totality. It is, like any other place, a ‘total’ phenomenon (as Norberg-Schulz writes) that cannot be reduced to its components, so the only articles that can be brought into a work of art are naturally telling an incomplete story. By presenting them in a way that connotes authority and care, I attempted to communicate and highlight the way in which material can be false even though it is often perceived as the final location of truth. Juxtaposing this presentation with visual effects that connote age and abandonment, the ideas of repetition and long spans of time are also engaged.
At the end of the day, the Gowanus Canal is more than the sum of its parts, and is irreducible to components. But so is this exhibition.
Venice/Gowanus: Mapping Watery Landscapes (2011)
Ink, graphite, markers, and collage on Mylar and paper
7’ x 23’ (dimensions variable)
Geographically distant places become interrelated by associations our mind produces. While paddling on the Gowanus Canal, familiar features of Venice slowly emerged. The barge with tires on its side; the decaying foundations eaten by moss; the house on stilts; the sound of church bells in the distance; the floating garbage moving placidly on the murky water, birds flying over our heads and cats screaming below. As I drew the view, I saw myself drawing on a different water edge, months before, looking at a different horizon. Through overlapping memories, time comes to a standstill. Until the gentle rhythm of the boat lulls me into daydreaming once again.
Gowanus Touch, 2011
Christine Howard Sandoval
2 Channel video
Soft edge means to take away the bulk head, let the parameters hang out, re-seed, grow again. Re-growth is inevitable, controversial, an after thought that “should” occur within design. Re-inhabit real estate is the future goal for this Superfund site…. but what would happen if one where to actually touch it?
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