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Fish on 14th Street: Climate Change & Vulnerability in The Urban Environment

Fish on 14th Street is a video work that will be projected on the sidewalk in front of the 14th Street Y in NYC from May 17 – May 19.The projection of a deluge of water creates the appearance of a flooded sidewalk.

As New Yorkers, we seldom consider our physical vulnerability on the group of islands that we inhabit, a vulnerability that is increasing as a result of climate change. Nevertheless, weather everywhere, even in Manhattan, has grown more extreme and erratic over the past decade, something many attribute to global warming.  In light of the recent evacuation of Lower Manhattan this past summer with the Hurricane that never happened, the work has particular resonance, serving as a wake-up call for urbanites who don’t think that climate change can affect them.

“FISH ON  14”,  which is fiscally sponsored by New York Foundation for the Arts,addresses climate change to New Yorkers in a visual and viscerally compelling way. 14th Street once was a waterway that connected the East River with the Hudson River.  Highlighting this significant historic relationship of the island of Manhattan to its surrounding body of water, viewers will be reminded of their personal vulnerability in the urban environment, as well as the vulnerability of all species and creatures on the planet in light of global warming.

The work will be projected onto the sidewalk  creating a river of frenzied fish.  The footage of the fish will alternate with footage of flowing water, which draws reference to cycles of destruction of redemption that mark the planet’s and humanity’s experience, as echoed in biblical stories like Noah’s Ark.

The projection in May is a small ”taste” of the work that I plan to do on a large scale throughout Lower Manhattan in 2013. For my work WATERSHED, I am imagining 14th street as it might have been, a flowing and symbolic link to the rivers on either side of the island. I will be creating a “phantom river” of frenzied fish in a deluge of water. The river of frenzied fish presents a metaphor for our survival within the ecosystem of our planet and a forum to think about our city in a global context. This work will establish a connection between New York and other American cities through our shared histories as waterways. Extracting and projecting phantoms or ghosts of what traveled beneath the surface, this visceral and interactive work will be an artistic semaphore about Manhattan’s (and other American cities) relationship to water throughout history. I will use new media technology to project my work in Lower Manhattan. 

Watershed was inspired by the learning I have done through my role as an artist fellow in the LABA: House of Study program at the 14th Street Y, which is a beit midrash for culture-makers. This year the House of Study selected 10 of us artist fellows and engaged us in the theme of BLUEPRINT, an investigation into the function of spaces and places in ancient Jewish texts. The works presented in the festival were created by us in response to the texts we studied together during our residencies at LABA.

The constant thread in all of my work is the participatory component that attempts to transform artwork as object into a place where one can physically engage. As an artist, it is essential for me to give back to the community and by creating work in the public I feel that I am doing so. I am informed by the physical properties of a site, as well as by its traces of human history. Creating an awareness of one’s self through highlighting one’s relationship to the physical environment is paramount to my process.


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