It is time to tell the truth. Our world is changing in ways we cannot truly imagine, and what we need right now, is the ability to imagine a changing world.
For 12 years I have worked on communicating the climate emergency through creativity. I have worked in and with communities experiencing changing environments as the impacts of the climate and ecological breakdown increased. I have been doing this work since 2006.
In the fall of 2018, the IPCC released its now infamous 12 years report. Everyday the news coming out was bleaker and more disheartening. In August of 2018, Greta Thunberg started striking outside of the Swedish Parliament in order to force her government to respond to what she saw as the single most important issue of our time. She is not wrong. Shortly thereafter, my own son, then 9 years old asked if he could start his own strike here in New York City. On December 7, 2018 I joined him outside of NYC City Hall. As I continued to work on my own projects I realized a disconnect. My own work took time, time to build community, do research and bring people along a slow and gentle path of knowledge, fear, grieving and action.
I recognized that we no longer had time to take things slowly.
I chose to stand up.
Since January of 2019 I have been organizing with Extinction Rebellion. A non-violent direct action campaign seeking urgent and radical responses to climate change. As part of this work I had to challenge myself to undertake our first demand, Tell the Truth. Government must tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change. Within this I had to learn to tell the truth to myself, that the world I had always expected will not be the reality.
In undertaking this new, urgent work, I have recognized the vital change needed in my own work. I need now to create space for communities with which I work to process (in rapid time) the grief that we all need to process regarding the climate emergency and be able to move to action.
In addition, creativity has an important role to play in all of this, in order to imagine a wholly different world than the one in which we currently exist. As artists we can both create visions of a new world as well as create space to allow others to engage in radical re-imagination of how we live on this planet.
Everyone will find their own path in engaging with the truth that exists for us now - one in which our food systems are under threat, where species are going extinct at an alarming rate and where we are living entirely out of balance with which our planet can sustain life.
I am, an admitted, reluctant activist. Early on in my son’s strike (he continues to strike to this day, every Friday) I would ask him, “do you want to go strike this week?” He would answer, “I don’t want to strike, but I have to strike.”
I will not stand by as our world is decimated, I will stand up.
WoW is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting artists working with water as site and/or material in response to the changing climate, increasing urban density, and public awareness of ecological concerns. Through interdisciplinary works by artists, curators, researchers and activists, we expand civic practices, and increase public engagement with bodies of water and provide a platform for rigorous, inclusive artmaking. WoW works to strengthen and nourish an intergenerational community of artists to develop new forms of site-specific work that connect to current economic, political, and global issues and is in conversation with the traditions of Land Art, Public Art, and Performance Art.
The Works on Water Residency provides an incubator space for diverse investigations of water in the urban environment. Works on Water, in partnership with Underwater New York, will bring together scientists, policy-makers, and visual, performance-based and literary artists working on, in and with the water, from May through October. Through our open studios, performances, monthly conversations, and other exhibitions of work in progress, , we will invite the public into a dialogue about the emerging field of Water Art, building toward the second Works on Water Triennial in 2020.
Co-founder, co-director, co-ordinator of Works on Water. An artist initiated and run non-profit. The team supports all of the residencies, public programming and presentation of work at the WoW house.
As part of the Ecological Consciousness – Artist as Instigator exhibtion at Wave Hill, Clarinda Mac Low and I undertook mapping the NYC Waterways and using that installation as a way to connect some of the other works in the gallery to the space which we all inhabit, share and impact.
We quite literally drew dashed lines from the work to the map – it helped to illuminate the cluster areas of interest and made real the fact that the connected waterways connected the works and all inhabitants of NYC.
This work was also a sister to the exhibition that we mounted on Governors Island, Nolan Park 5B, as part of the Works on Water/Underwater New York Artist Residency. That exhibition maps works from around the world through shared themes and lenses (such as liminal, community, scarcity).
It was also just really fun to play with the space and let the painting seep into spaces like doorways, windows and floors. Special thanks to Carolyn Hall and Madelyn Ringold Brown for their help painting (and for Christopher Kennedy and Ellie Irons for special support).
A 50,000 square foot junk playground on Governors Island, “The Yard,” by play:groundNYC brings back free and non-judgemental play to New York City. In 2015, Alex Khost & I begin the task of bringing back free and non-judgemental play to NYC, we were soon joined by a group of passionate children’s rights supporters– Yoni Kallai, Reilly Wilson, Robin Meyer, Anne Morosini and Philipp Klaus — to make free play happen. We started by hosting Pop Up Adventure Play Days to create opportunities for kids to take ownership, build, imagine and create. In 2016, we opened the Governors Island site. Now we are advocating for design for children throughout the urban environment, and helping other communities build junk playgrounds in their neighborhood. In addition we continue to offer summer camp, school field trips, pop up play:ground and professional development and playworker training.
Hurricane Sandy devastated many areas on the eastern seaboard. The Rockaway Peninsula (The Rockaways), was hit hard, resulting in over one hundred destroyed (and thousands of damaged) homes. On this walk, participants explored the peninsula in the aftermath of the storm through experiencing, sharing and invoking personal loss. What is our tolerance for loss and what are you willing to lose?
The Non Outcome Oriented Art (NOO Art) Working Group engaged in a series of discussions and activities to identify and understand interactive, process-oriented works that have emerged within the urgency of the current/recent context of changing climate, volatile politics, social welfare and economic strains. We queried what it means to create work without predetermined outcomes; where do processes and outcomes intersect with other disciplines (including other art forms)? We identified key characteristics of both NOO and similar/intersecting disciplines, and created a graphic mapping of these characteristics and intersections in order to create a visible record of our collective thought processes.
Conceived of and co-led with Clarinda Mac Low, Lise Brenner, participants included Kimberly Reinhardt, Laura Nova, Joaquin Croxatto.
Revisiting the 2009 work, Paths of Desire, I provided maps of the historically important waterways in Lower Manhattan and a bottle of blue pigment to allow visitors to Works on Water to wander, explore and discover the waterways of Lower Manhattan.
As part of Works on Water, I collaborated with Clarinda Mac Low to create a large scale floor painting of the NY waterways. Intended to ground people in the specific site of water as material within the exhibition, the waterways acted as a guide into the exhibition space.
Overlaid on the waterways was a video in which I represented the historic waterways and Clarinda imagined the future.
We also had help from wonderful people: Tessa Grundon, Sharon Unis, Wendy Brawer, Nicole Crescimanno.
As part of School of Apocalypse, Sarah Cameron Sunde and I led a global team working on mapping artists working on, in and with the water. The team consisted of Nancy Nowacek, Seila Fernandez Arconada, Tessa Grundon, Tal Beery and other contributors. We devised research methods, did outreach to global communities of artists and then produced geographic and relationship maps of the data collected. The site is a work in progress: maps.worksonwater.org This collection was a starting point for Works on Water, as well it helped us better define the movement of water artists which is “artists working with specific bodies of water in which water is either stage or material and the work is performative in nature.”
A collaborative facilitation with Creative Catalysts, Seeding Possibilities will provide community organizations with a method of connecting with creatives and professionals to assist in progressing a regional issue they are tackling.
Research and outreach is followed by a convening which builds trust and results in creative plans of action which are realized over a period of time.
I was invited by MEAD – Maine Environmental Artists and Designers to come up to visit and share with te group. I was interested in creating an interactive experience and learning model that would result in some tangible outcomes for the group. I proposed a one day workshop that led with storytelling and transformed into collaborative creative invention.
The morning started working in small groups on developing a story – a story that tells of a personal transformation in one’s life that helps to define who you are today. It might be a story of personal experience or a story of professional transformation. We identified triggers or moments that presented challenges or moved us emotionally and then the story of how we overcame the challenge and how that changed our lives.
Participants then had the option to share the stories with the whole group. The idea is that we begin as a disparate group (academics, artists, scientists, journalists, activists, administrators) and then through the personal transformation story we forge a connection and a deeper understanding of each other. These bonds allow us to speak more freely and collaborate in a deeper way – rather than jumping straight into a collaborative process. We begin to find things which we share or which have resonance with one another.
After hearing a little introduction on the topic of food access in the region, we went through a brainstorming process of noting what are challenges and resources that exist. From the list of challenges we chose (through a voting process) three which would be the prompts for creative interventions that we developed in the afternoon session.
The afternoon involved breaking into three groups to collaboratively co-create one or more creative interventions that responded to the challenge and utilized existing resources. The collective favorite was to use the public library as a space to house a community crockpot which would be checked out and used to bring together diverse groups to discuss food, food values and access to food. Thank you all in Belfast for a wonderful experience!
Insert ____ Here 2011 was a re-imagining of the project I created in 2008. This time I collaborated with 350.org to make it huge! And global. We wanted to put the power of creative thinking in the hands of community organizations and give people a chance to think positively in the face of climate change. View all the sites at insert-here.org.
And we partnered with artist Paul Notzold for an interactive projection project.