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Brace yourself

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Wow, can’t believe its Tuesday already and I haven’t yet posted for the past weekend. Granted it was quite a crazy weekend and having been knocked out with a cold the week before I still have some recovery time. That and things are still kinda crazy this week. So here’s how it rolled:


Thursday I installed the beacons in Brooklyn Bridge Park for the Dumbo Art Center’s Arts Under the Bridge Festival. Came home to clean up, then jetted back to the park to illuminate the beacons. I have to say that I really love that park. If you haven’t been there before, you should really go. It lies under the Manhattan Bridge, and is connected to the Empire Fulton Ferry Park which runs along the water almost to the Brooklyn Bridge. Both of the parks provide a beautiful greenway that has stunning views of Manhattan. At night it is particularly lovely. You can look at all the lights of the city (and on the bridges) - let’s hope they are all low energy bulbs using alternative energy. Usually its is quite a peaceful park, but this weekend it was not. It was pretty much all crazy and crowded all the time.


After illuminating the beacons, I jumped on the B61 to ride over to Williamsburg where I had been so graciously invited to speak about the project as part of a 100-mile dinner at Like the Spice gallery. It was great, I spent a lot of the time talking with Gordon, co-owner of Urban Spring, who prepared the great meal.


Saturday was going to be a long day of drawing, making up for the Red Hook chalking that I didn’t get to finish and then doing the first pass in Dumbo. The water in Red Hook goes pretty far inland. Not as much as Spring Creek and Canarsie, but it is a much more densely populated area, with a lot of high rise NYCHA buildings down there. I also chalked past the working waterfront that still exists out on the west side of Carroll Gardens (I think they call it Columbia Waterfront). Then we rolled into Dumbo. There was quite a crowd down there. And I should have thought of this, but with all of the activity down there, most people just looked at me and didn’t think twice about my chalking activities. Having said that a few people did ask, and even more impressive I heard a number of times as I passed by someone explaining the project to their friends. “Oh, yes, she’s marking the flood zone from climate change - she’s done it all around Brooklyn.” Perfect! Let’s talk to each other (not just me) about the issues. Hurray!


My friend Tara DePorte from Lower East Side Ecology Center had come out to give away t-shirts on which she was asking people to write sustainable promises. That way, she reckons, every time they wear the shirt, if they haven’t done their promise, they will feel guilty and may be more likely to do it. I also think they will want to brag that they have in fact done it.


I popped into Nelson Hancock Gallery to drop off some more action packets and Rives (who works in the gallery) said they had a constant stream of people interested in and asking about the project. So the word is getting out!


And in order to help do that, I am working with Cicala Filmworks to create a documentary of the project. We will be airing a *very* rough cut at the HWL closing party next Sunday. Come on out and help celebrate!


The details are:

SUNDAY 7 OCTOBER 2007 6:00-8:00 PM

Presented by The Canary Project + XØ Projects Inc; the evening’s events include: An exhibition of the project’s maps, drawings, images and tools; an installation of the Beacons; re-marking of the HighWaterLine at the Gowanus Canal on Third Street; a screening of a preliminary rough-cut of a documentary film by Cicala Filmworks; Q&A with the artist and filmmakers hosted by CUP: Center for Urban Pedagogy, and beer from Ommegang Brewery!


Please also keep in mind that this project is still seeking financial support - so donate here!


Comments on original post:

  1. I just visited a gallery and picked up one of your info packets. I must say that I’m amazed that you’d use seven pieces of paper per packet, regardless of what kind of vegetable ink on there. Also, perhaps it might be wiser to spend more time collecting trash before it falls into waterways, instead of laying down chalk, which quickly becomes particulate pollution in the air that we all breathe. I’m also offended by your disregard for aesthetics of neighborhoods as you without regard paint lines across sidewalks, grass, and intersections. How about someone actually does something instead of “raising awareness”? As I see it, there is trash everywhere going into drainage ditches and straight into the river and ocean. This is while we have thousands of people “raising awareness”. Something is not right there. Comment by Bruder — October 6, 2007 #

  2. Any reason for removing my earlier comment about your methods that actually pollute the environment, deposit particulate matter by the pound into the air, your disregard for aesthetics of the city you live in, and printing 7 pieces of paper for every one of your pamphlets? Or is it too embarrassing to admit? Comment by Bruder — October 7, 2007 #

  3. Hi Bruder- I didn’t remove your earlier comment (as you can see). I moderate all of my comments because a) I mostly get spam comments for a variety of “medical products” and b) its my blog so I can. I hadn’t had a chance to approve the comments because I was a little busy this weekend (see above posts). So now I want to address your questions in the above comment (and I will ignore your snarky attitude in the second comment). I very much considered every part of the project and the materials used. I debated over the printing of the packets quite a lot with myself and friends. I live my life as very low impact so the decision to print materials was a pretty difficult one to come by, but I did decide that it would be for the best. Along the path of the project, I mostly talked to people and if they were interested in the project and learning more about what they could do, I would offer them the packet. I didn’t tell them to take it, and I always asked that they share the information with friends and family, pass on the packet. I chose to do the separate cards because I wanted them to be able to post the cards in places where they could be shared: the “home” card can go on the fridge so everyone can see it, the “office” card can be taken into the office and again posted and shared. As for people taking the cards from the gallery, again they were available for people who were interested, but I would hope that people who don’t want them won’t pick them up. Strikes me that we maybe have some social education to do to teach people that they don’t need to have all these “things.” I am hoping that when you say “picked up” the packet at the gallery you do mean that you literally just picked it up and then put it back down. The website is clearly printed on the cards, so if you don’t want the “trash” you could get the information online. As for the chalk, I did quite a lot of research on the material and considered different options for the project but really had decided that the chalk was going to be the most powerful. The chalk reduces acidity in the soil and water which helps with the growth of plants and sea life. Your particulate point is a very valid one, I am aware that particulate pollution is a contributor to climate change, I would be interested to know if the reflective properties of the chalk would alleviate its impact at all. I will have to ask one of my science advisers their opinion on that. One of the things that I was conscious of is the impact that an art project can have while it is trying to achieve its goal. I have been long concerned with the impact of say, a photographer flying around the world to take pictures of climate change, and then the environmental impact of the chemicals in the printing process etc. What I think is important is that an artist carefully consider the balance between the environmental impact and the impact of the work. Having said that, I think photographic evidence of climate change is incredibly powerful, and building the global connections is invaluable. (It is also why I rode a tricycle around town to achieve almost the entire project - proving that we don’t need cars for many loads. I did use on a few occasions a ZipCar, promoting the fact that if for any reason you do need a car, you can use one without owning one, which reduces overall car trips). As for my “raising awareness” perhaps if you had taken the time to come out and walk with me, to speak to the people that I spoke to, you would feel different. Raising awareness may be an understatement. I was having really honest conversations with many people over the six months of the project. You can read a lot more about it if you read through the blog a little bit (if you haven’t already). I had so many people earnestly say “thank you.” They were so happy that someone was talking about the threat to coastal communities, both in their neighborhood and across the entire city. They were thankful that I was out in their neighborhood armed with those action packets and sharing information that allowed them to know what they could do in their own lives. They were thankful that I would take the time to stop and listen to their thoughts and stories too. Aesthetically, I only had one person comment on the fact that they thought the line was ugly. A number of people enjoyed following it through the neighborhood and the kids really loved it. Lucky for the aesthetes, the line generally was gone by the end of the day. While I agree that there are many people out there “raising awareness” not that many of them are going out into the neighborhoods that I am going to and speaking to people. Most of the “raising awareness” is either done by people in Union Square saying, “can you spare 5 minutes for the environment,” or people preaching to the choir. (These are certainly important actions as well). One thing to remember is that every one person I spoke to could then pass on the message to other people in the neighborhood which gets people speaking to one another about the issues, and then maybe working together for greater change. The power of educating others is invaluable, but difficult to measure. You will however be pleased to know that the next project, the green roofing project has some mitigation (although only a sampling) built right in. Comment by admin — October 8, 2007 #

  4. Thank you for your reply and thoughtful commentary. While I can see your point about the packets, raising awareness, and your personal decisions that you make, I do still complain about spreading chalk around. While it might reduce acidity in the water, you do understand that the air breathed in by the children you meet is much more direct an effect than your chalk washing into the waters, reducing acidity, and supposedly then helping fish. Have you considered that if whatever you use reduces acidity, it must be a base, perhaps bleach itself. It seems like a very ad hoc defense of throwing god knows what into the air. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel that you’ve considered all the outcomes of this particular action. As for myself, I have to say that I’m not a global warming environmentalist, in that I don’t think that’s our main problem. I do however abhor dumping of any kind of garbage in the street, water, forest, etc. I’ve been kayaking the vast waterways of Brooklyn the last couple months, and a few spots I’ve seen I simply could not believe the amount of garbage there including car engines, tires, televisions, and all kinds of other things that contain oil, heavy metals, and all other non biodegradable waste. This to me seems like a more direct, apparent problem that is harming the wildlife that lives right here around us. And the wildlife is here, including fish in the most unattractive canals we visited. I simply call for more direct, voluntary action that I believe will do more. Comment by Bruder — October 9, 2007 #

  5. Something we have in common - kayaking! Although I have only put in once since moving back to NYC, and that was in the Hudson River, I have spent a lot of time on the waterfront. I agree that global warming isn’t our only problem - there are social, economic and waste issues - but it may in fact make all of the other issues worse. When we look at the specific issue that HWL was addressing, we will see more frequent flooding along the coast which exacerbates the existing problems of the toxic waterways and the toxic sites that line the waterways. I also think it is important to both take the direct action AND educate. If one person is picking up the trash and 1000 throwing it away there may be no way to catch up. It’s the idea that if you give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. I spoke a lot (both to individuals, the media and when on panels) about the interconnectedness of all of our actions. That we can’t just worry about flooding, but we need to also worry about the current state of the waterways and coastlines (you have probably seen all of the scrap metal yards and auto shops right on the waterways). I had a young man out walking with me this weekend that I had met in East Williamsburg. He had done quite a bit of exploring in his neighborhood, which was great, but it didn’t mean that he knew the implications or interconnectedness. When we were looking at English Kills (one of the Newtown tribs) he pointed out the oil and trash floating and commented on how gross it was and wondered where it came from. I explained to him about not just the immediate surrounding area but the impacts of action in the streets of his own neighborhood and how anything that goes into the sewer (bleach, paint, detergent, auto oil) may eventually end up in the water. I think the project (and my own collected knowledge) can help change the minds of communities and maybe city agencies about the waterways. So yes, provide the information and within that, provide ways to take action and also provide the opportunity to take action. I am working on another aspect of the HWL project in which youth groups from two or more different Brooklyn neighborhoods will map things that would be affected by the floods (both good and bad). Then they will work together to develop the maps and share knowledge, the final project may be tours and clean up efforts with each group visiting the neighborhoods of the other groups. I am also collaborating with another artist on mapping the runoff issues around the city (and the lovely CSO). As for the particulate, I tried to do a lot of research on the toxicity of the dust in the air as well. I didn’t find anything definitive, but it is a lime based dust made of marble dust, which from what I could find was “non-toxic” and according to one site, the best to use for people with asthma. Again it’s not definitive and the information is culled from a variety of places so it is by no means a defense of the use of the dust. For more precise information, I would have to bring in someone who knows more than me. Having said that, I am ALWAYS open to a constructive discussion of any projects I undertake and if you have ideas for creating more direct actions in concert with the educational goals of any of my upcoming projects, I would love to hear about them and incorporate them! Comment by admin — October 9, 2007 #

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