Chance Ecologies: Newtown Creek
Curated by Catherine Grau and Nathan Kensinger
Saturday, August 6th, 1pm-7pm
“Saints and sinners is an easy opposition, often drawn up, but both camps refuse the rules, serve the impractical, the transcendent, the deeper sense of self. Both pursue freedom and, sometimes, joy and ecstasy. This is a map about people exploring the full range of being human, the outer limits of the spirit and the flesh—and about the love of animals as epiphanies and as ways the natural world remains present in the human-made realm. It’s about breaking free, so to speak, of the bears and bulls of the marketplace and taking wing.” – Rebecca Solnit, The Oysters in the Spire
Chance Ecologies: Newtown Creek is a part of a series of six programs associated with Nonstop Metropolis: The Remix, leading up to the launch of Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s New York atlas Nonstop Metropolis at the Queens Museum in November 2016. Rebecca Solnit’s essay The Oysters In The Spire is a jumping off point for the map Wildlife by cartographer Molly Roy and artist Tino Rodriguez; both found in Nonstop Metropolis. The curators of Chance Ecologies have created a daylong event inspired by this essay and map.
On August 6th, the public is invited to join an international group of Queens and Brooklyn-based artists from Chance Ecologies at a series of participatory actions and workshops in the wilderness along the banks of the Newtown Creek, one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States. Participants will be invited to creatively engage with urban wildlife, environmental activism, and art practices exploring industrialized landscapes. Participants will interact with a diverse range of species living in and along the creek, and with unique arts projects being developed on its shoreline by Chance Ecologies, a curatorial framework for artistic practices exploring unplanned, post-industrial wild spaces.
This day of activities will take place at the Plank Road project site, one of the only access points to the unplanned shoreline of the Newtown Creek, and is being presented in partnership with the Newtown Creek Alliance. Broadsides of the Rebecca Solnit essay and Wildlife map will be distributed to all attendees, courtesy of the Queens Museum.
All events will begin at the intersection of 47th Street and 58th Road in Maspeth, Queens. This is a remote industrial location. Bring sturdy shoes. Water and shade will be provided. The nearest subway station is the L Train station at Grand Street, which is about a 20 minute walk (5 minute bike ride) east along Grand Avenue to 47th Street. The closest bus stop is at Grand Avenue and 47th Street on the Q59 route. Walk north on 47th Street for one block to reach the event site.
Schedule of Events:
Plank Road Welcome // Willis Elkins and Nathan Kensinger
1pm – 1:30pm
Chance Ecologies curator Nathan Kensinger and Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) program manager Willis Elkins will introduce visitors to the Plank Road site, leading a walk along the shoreline. Elkins will discuss the work that the NCA is doing to create access and re-introduce species to the Newtown Creek, giving an overview of his Living Dock and Plank Road initiatives, while Kensinger will discuss how wildlife in and around the creek has inspired a variety of creative arts projects, from George Trakas’ Nature Walk to recent public arts installations like The Newtown Creek Armada and Chance Ecologies. A field guide to local birds will be distributed, for visitors to seek their own inspiration onsite.
Virtual Reality, Empathy, and Place // Edrex Fontanilla
1:30pm to 4pm
New media artist Edrex Fontanilla will bring individual visitors into an immersive experience of the lost wilderness of Hunter’s Point South, allowing participants to exist in a place that no longer exists. One by one, viewers will be brought to a secluded waterfront glen and given a virtual reality mask, to experience the sights and sounds of a unique, wild landscape that once stood along the Newtown Creek.
Maspeth Creek Voyage // Nathan Kensinger, Laura Chipley, Sarah Nelson Wright
Peer into a video porthole transporting you underneath the waters of the Newtown Creek and into the nearby environs of the Maspeth Creek inlet, where egrets, herons and barnacles scratch out an existence in the raw sewage of one of New York City’s largest combined sewer overflows. This immersive video installation was originally created for The Newtown Creek Armada, a boat pond installed on the creek in 2012 at the Newtown Creek Nature Walk.
Dancing With Weeds // Lise Brenner
Choreographer Lise Brenner will lead a group of participants in creating a danceable map of the vegetation along the Newtown Creek at Plank Road, connecting movement, plants and landmarks. No dance experience necessary. Wear appropriate footwear.
The Wild Within // Dillon de Give
Walking artist Dillon de Give will organize short partnered walks bounded by mutual gaze. The Wild Within is an experiment in seeing each other, inspired by the following quote:
“Since that day, when I close my eyes I can see the pupils of the two rust-colored coyotes. There was something secret there, a wildness that didn’t belong to the coyote but that I recognized as my fundamental nature. It was who I was but it didn’t belong to me. It was the intelligence of all beings. It was uncultivated, unbiased, and unconditioned. It was true intelligence.” – Paul Rezendes, The Wild Within
Impossible Bridge // Edmund Mooney + Dylan Gauthier
A collaboration performance between sound artist Edmund Mooney and media artist Dylan Gauthier, Impossible Bridge is a floating sound sculpture utilizing an artist-built boat and two hydrophones, creating an underwater audio bridge that celebrates the long-disused creek crossing at Plank Road.
Seed Collecting Walk // Ellie Irons and Anne Percoco
4pm + 5:30pm
A walk along the wild-growing banks of the Newtown Creek, to identify and gather seeds from the hardy plants that are thriving on the banks of this super-funded waterway. Collected seeds will become part of the Next Epoch Seed Library, an art installation which provides a diverse gene pool of weedy species, well-situated to face the Anthropocene era.
Undomesticated Species, Blindness & Bliss // Natalia Roumelioti (ntilit)
As part of an ongoing film project at Plank Road, artist Natalia Roumelioti (ntilit) will arrange a sound performance by artist Tamio Shiraishi, based on the underlying script of her project. The audience is welcomed to sink into the sound and the existing environment of the Newtown Creek, as Shiraishi signals with his sound to the birds.
The Wild Call // Catherine Grau
A participatory performance piece designed by Chance Ecologies curator Catherine Grau. As a closing ceremony for the day’s events, all present guests will be asked to silently walk onto the site, and perform an improvised collection of bird calls, howls and other wild sounds.