This blog is a collection of projects, documentation, writing and other ephemera from a visual research workshop led by The Canary Project and commissioned by Commissioned by the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) in conjunction with the exhibition U-n-f-o-l-d: A Cultural Response to Climate Change.
The mission of the workshop was threefold:
1) meditate on what it means to regard the polluted, industrial landscape of the Gowanus Canal as “Nature;”
2) make works that function as visual research contributing to a broader discourse regarding the canal;
3) create an exhibition of works, in relationship to U-n-f-o-l-d, using the public space of the SJDC
As with the Cape Farewell expeditions featured in U-n-f-o-l-d, this project centered around an expedition — on the Gowanus — not as remote as the Arctic perhaps but in some ways, equally unfamiliar. One early Sunday in mid-October, we rowed the length of the canal. Having spent the previous day getting a crash course on the site from climate scientists to representatives from the EPA to community activists, planners and designers, we found our actual experience of the canal to be short but transporting – overturning some expectations and reviving others.
Many of us returned to the Gowanus several times in a two-week span, trying to unsettle and reconcile the flood of planning discourse and technical information with our own experiences, variously strenuous, playful, humorous and brief. Unexpectedly, we felt a kind of consensus. There was something peaceful, strange and wild about the canal – in the way our perceptions of time shift on the water, in the tangled layers of histories and myths, in the abandonment of the site that makes it hospitable to other inhabitants and usage – making it a bit of New York still resistant to a single standard of development.
We take no formal position on how the canal should be developed — how could we, having known the canal for only two weeks? We simply offer our sustained visual meditations of the unique qualities of place. Whether this is a sort of memorial or can be translated into recommendations for its future is out of our hands. In the meantime, the works here are available for any who wish to search them out amidst the hurly-burly of this passageway.
Aron Louis Cohen
Daniella Garcia Rosales
Christine Sandoval Howard
Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris (The Canary Project), with Evan Paschke