Phillip Lopate describes the shape of Manhattan Island as‘a luxury liner, permanently docked, going nowhere’. This feeling of being tethered to the land, unable to get to sea, was a feature of New York life for much of the twentieth century. New York was an island without a coast. The West Side piers that once welcomed the Lusitania spent most of the twentieth century crumbling or behind barbed wire, while the East Side’s coves and points were cut off from pedestrians by six lanes of the Robert Moses-designed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. It wasn’t much easier to reach the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, either: with a few exceptions, they were largely reserved for municipal or industrial use, and easiest to see from the Staten Island Ferry (en route to the borough with the most beaches). Now, slowly, the city is reclaiming its shoreline, with some spectacular results.

Orchard Beach by Denise Milstein


This 4th of July, backs to slanted sun, we watch waves.
A lipsticked youth paces, hair inert,
as kids scream or cry in shallows of floating waste. 

Then I understand how the planet counts on our demise.
My self adjusts to more or less than person.
Where nothing ends, the world transforms. 

I’m phytoplankton, quartz in sand, heavy metal sinking.
I’m water morphed to gas, free to slice through time,
to burst the container, wilt the leaf. 

When I’m glacial again, what will love be? Or loss?

When I’m glacial, what will word be? What fear?

For the love of molecule, for the dewy universe.
For folks oohing and aahing over the fireworks.
(I always hear bombs.) 

Brown ones east of the fence, concrete parking lot in back of Tony’s Pier;
white ones west, manicured lawn of the Morris Yacht & Beach Club. 

For that little girl I hold up over the fence so she can see watersky,
unwieldy bundle of bones and hope in my arms. 

Against our false divisions,
For kin beyond, 

I dream this all without us. 

Denise Milstein is a writer and researcher. She teaches at Columbia University and edits Dispatches from the Field, a publication series devoted to ethnographic material. She is a member of the Ensayos collective, a group of artists, scientists, and local agents based in Tierra del Fuego. Her work has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Hobart, and elsewhere. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, she lives and works in New York City.

Color Studies, Orange by David Andree

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. David Andree was in residence on Governors Island from June 25-July 8, 2018.


Dimensions: Photograph dimensions variable & 10 x 10 inches aluminum on panel
Materials: Aluminum on panel

Artist Statement: Originating from the desire to explore the effects of water on color, this project begins by creating a color-field painting which is then submerged under water in order to observe the color change that the given body of water produces. While the painting is submerged, the resulting color that is observed from the surface is mixed to produce a new color-field painting. This process is then continued with the newly mixed color to create a series of color gradations until the color no longer changes or the painting disappears when submerged. At each step the submerged painting is photographically documented and reproduced as a photographic print to be displayed alongside the original physical painting as a completed piece.

David Andree is an artist whose work spans painting, drawing, sculpture and sound. David holds a Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York (SUNY), received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), and currently holds the position of Assistant Professor at the School of Art in Fayetteville, AR. He has had work exhibited at Gallery MC and BWAC Gallery in New York City, Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Hallwalls, the Big Orbit Gallery, Exhibit-A and the Burchfield Nature and Art Center in upstate New York, The Masur Museum of Art, and at numerous venues around Minneapolis, Minnesota, including SooVac and the Rochester Art Center. He is the recipient of a 2014 Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. His work is collected by Target Corporation and included in private collections in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, and the United Kingdom.

The Lonely Hearted Living by Rena Priest

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Rena Priest was in residence on Governors Island in 2018.

When the outbreak started, I was alarmed enough to start taking action.  Although I hated to think of myself as a doomsday prepper, I bought a canoe and outfitted it with survival gear, then motored to a lonely island cove where I used to picnic with my family every Memorial Day as a child. The cove had been my great-grandmother’s sanctuary, where she brought her children when the Indian agent came to take them away to boarding schools. They stayed on the island through the fall season and returned to the village when the weather turned bitter. Soon after, the agent returned and took the children away to educate the Indian out of them. Kill the Indian to save the man. The youngest didn’t survive. We returned to the cove every spring to remember.

My grandmother would grieve, saying, “They insisted we learn how to stitch prayers into cloth instead of letting our mother teach us how to make baskets. They insisted we learn cursive, while they refused to learn our language with all the words for how to live a beautiful life.”


As the weeks passed, the news brought reports about people going cannibal. Then came reports of the National Guard being deployed in urban neighborhoods. Stories about towns on lockdown. The whole time, I had been stashing food and supplies on the island. I bought it all on credit cards, not planning to ever pay it back. Less than three months after the first reports, there was a grizzly account of a mother eating her screaming baby in a mall parking lot. I closed my laptop, drove to the harbor, motored to my cove, set up camp, and waited. From the island, I could see the lights of my city. I was there three nights before they went dark.

People like to believe we are beyond the reach of dangers sensationalized in headlines. Those horrors are happening to other people, in other places. There’s no real news anymore, though we have outposts where people leave old clippings about the outbreak. It’s nothing we don’t know. Keep your distance from people. Don’t eat food from industrial farms. Don’t use electricity or motors of any kind… Someone left a bunch of handwritten copies of the Chief Seattle speech. It resonates:

“At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them.”

Now here I am, waiting for someone to find a cure; waiting for the lights of my city to flick back on, waiting for the pulse of helicopter blades; pushing my canoe away from the shore every night. The nights are quiet except for the loneliness that howls inside me, and sometimes the overplayed songs of my youth play in my mind. Sometimes I forget myself and sing. It’s easy to get careless, to think I’m alone.

“In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude.”

Sleeping in my canoe, anchored past the drop-off, is the only way I get a good night’s rest. The GMOs don’t like the water. At night, I sometimes hear people speaking up in the hills. Their voices find me in my lonely canoe, but I can’t understand what they’re saying. Sometimes I wonder if they’re real. They’re not like the voices of my memories.

My dad had a fisherman’s dialect. I can hear his voice as clear and bright as day. It feels so close that I want to talk back; tell him I’m sorry that I drifted away. When I grow tired of my circumstances, I think of a story he told while we were mending net, he and his crew and I, standing in a line and pulling the web, arm length by arm length in search of holes to mend. He didn’t like the crew cursing and telling their raunchy stories around me, so he’d either forgotten I was there, or at that moment, just didn’t care.

Some of those fishing grounds up there are so lonesome and remote, he told us, they make you feel like ain’t nobody else on earth. It gets spooky. Our first go up, we didn’t even have our sea legs yet. It was me and Joe on with Skip Walker’s crew. It was stormy, and all the way up, Joe was drunk on cheap wine and sea-sick as hell. He puked all over one side of my bunk, turned it over and then later puked on the other side. I couldn’t have slept anyway. It was too rough a ride.

By a few days in, the booze was gone, and we were in a calm patch. I felt like I could hold down food, so I went into the galley and saw that all the jelly jars and canned food had fallen to the floor, from the boat being tossed sideways and back. We were trying to put things right when old Skip came in and said, Don’t bother. It’s rough up ahead. So we left it, and sure enough it started to storm again.

When we finally got up to the fishing ground, it was calm as glass, which means no fish, but the damn season wasn’t open yet anyway, and it didn’t open. We dropped anchor in an empty cove and waited for the go ahead to come over the radio, but all we ever heard was talk of radio fish in the straights; jumpers—thick schools swimming right past us. It got everyone edgy.

Finally, the guys elected me spokesman because they were all too scared. They said, Go tell Skip that we’re going to leave if it don’t open by the end of next week. I went and told him and he said, Okay. And during that week, we’s waiting it out there in the middle of nowhere, and there’s nothing to do but sit around starin’ at the four walls, and just when everyone starts getting cabin fever, a big beautiful fiberglass seiner called The Rejoice comes cruising in and ties up. That boat had whiskey, whores, pot, cocaine. It was a big old party boat. I think the net was just for show. I think it was a floating whorehouse.

At the end of the week, we’d spent all the money we’d brought up, and our season still wasn’t open, so we hitched a ride to the next port with The Rejoice and flew home.

Then sure as shit—soon as we got home, word came that the season opened, and here we were: broke, hung-over, and catching hell for bringing our wives the clap instead of a paycheck. Had to learn the hard way, I guess. Don’t get distracted. Be patient and keep about your business and don’t quit until your season opens. Most of the time you’ll do okay, or it used to be that way.


I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fanaticize about The Rejoice. In my daydreams, it’s not a floating whorehouse. It’s the U.S. Coast Guard with a handsome crew come to take me to safety, but I guess a floating whorehouse would be just fine. Survival’s got me tired.

Some days I think of motoring my canoe back to town, walking up the dock to the harbor store, and just ripping open a bag of contaminated corn chips, singing loudly as I wash it down with whiskey and cola and let come what may—just fling arms wide to the GMO fate. Some days, I walk along the shoreline looking at the stones, thinking about putting them into my pockets and walking into the waves. But I don’t.

Rena Priest is a writer and Lummi tribal member.  Her debut book, Patriarchy Blues, was released on MoonPath Press and garnered an American Book Award. Her most recent collection, Sublime Subliminal, was published in 2018. She has attended residencies at Mineral School, Underwater New York/Works on Water on Governors Island, and Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers. She is the recipient of a 2018 National Geographic Explorers Grant, and has taught various topics in writing, storytelling, and literature.

Sunk Shore by Tryst, Carolyn Hall and Clarinda Mac Low

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Carolyn Hall and Clarinda Mac Low were in residence on Governors Island in 2018.

Clarinda Mac Low and Carolyn Hall in conversation about Sunk Shore, speculative futures, contextual events and politics, and climate change education using a localized sense-based approach. Conversation has been edited for clarity.

How does the future get shaped and by whom?

Carolyn Hall: In “Sunk Shore” we were investigating practical versions of realistic, utopian, and dystopian futures. We included a lot of data around the physical aspects of climate change, and only touched briefly on the social and political worlds that affect how we manage those changes.

CML: What’s the most effective, or fair, or kind way of organizing society? Does it work better to have many different localities responsible for their own place, and then form a network? Or is centralized government more efficient? A question I have is, if there is more collective decision, will it lead to better decisions?

CH: If the people in power, or the people making those decisions, are those who care less about or are less influenced by the fact of climate change—this will create our hypothetical dystopian future. These are the people with resources, who don’t feel that they are affected by climate change--they can buy themselves out of the problems.

CML: Well, but there are people with fewer resources in Florida, for example, or North Carolina who still say, “it’s not climate change.”

CH: Although [Hurricane] Florence is actually convincing some Republicans to talk about climate change being real. A journalist interviewed people in the Wilmington, North Carolina area and there were still people who said it’s malarkey or that God will take care of it, and that’s still really a strong portion of the population. But she also interviewed a variety of people of different work status and from different classes, and found that more people were saying that we have to confront this as a real thing, including people who have been fishing their whole lives who have started saying “yeah, the waters are warming.”

CML: The way our attention as a culture works now—people know a lot more and also don’t know the same things as each other. So—is believing in climate change actually related to knowledge? Are the decisions to believe and act on climate change related to what people know? Or is that decision related to something else. Like we talked about what people feel...

CH: It probably is related somewhat to what people know, and what kids are being taught. Education systems are localized, and states or counties can decide what they teach in the public schools, so information is different from region to region. We are not, as a country, getting the same education. And as news-hungry people, we can choose our news and so we’re not getting the same news either. So there’s no neutral service of education or information. I mean, I don’t know what neutral is and I think we would have a very interesting time trying to define neutral.

CML: How knowledge is distributed and how it affects people's sense of urgency leads to the different decisions that people make to determine their the 1970s something happened where people were just like fuck...

CH: ...we will not take this anymore...

CML: ...locally, anyway. Globally, it’s complicated, of course, and that affects us. But because we’re the largest consumers on the planet, what we do as a country, as a nation state, affects everybody else.

CH: I think it’s us and China.

CML: How does this work socio-politically? Because if you have a benevolent dictator, or even a non-benevolent dictator, that decides, “I’m going to address climate change,” it could be quite effective. It’s fucked up! But it could be quite effective.

How does climate change work, and how can we best explain it to a broad audience?

CH: We accept data as fact. I think the issue is that even straightforward factual data can be willfully misinterpreted.

CML: Who are the people interpreting it? That’s always going to be the question.

CH: And what are they looking for?

CH: One of the magazines that I brought into the house [5B on Governors Island, WoW/UNY residency house] was all about the history of talking about climate change. And from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, the politicians were mostly on board, they knew we needed to talk about this. It changed during the Reagan years. In 1987, James Hansen, a scientist with NASA was invited to testify at a Senate hearing about climate change, but someone in the administration didn’t like his scientific predictions and demanded he change his testimony. He refused to change and since he was a government employee, they could refuse to let him speak. The way around this was for him to present as a private citizen because they couldn’t censor him that way. So he had to come as a private citizen “Atmospheric Scientist.” And he presented, introducing himself with his NASA credentials, but because he was supposed to be there as a private citizen, he couldn’t be listed as a NASA government scientist...they were trying to silence and discredit him.

CML: Um hmm. Well, that’s what I mean, there was a possibility before...because if Rachel Carson had lived, people were listening to her. Like why is DDT outlawed? Because of Rachel Carson. There are all these really smart decisions that were made at that point...

CH: Right! Like in the ‘70s, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency and Endangered Species. But now it’s so difficult to get the government to take action - that’s the urgency now. And it’s difficult because the effects of climate change aren’t as immediate. It’s not affecting people in their homes unless there’s a natural disaster. But it isn’t affecting them on a daily basis, like acid rain or polluted fish or a “hole” in the ozone’s easier to ignore.

CML: Yeah, but now rivers are flooding!

CH: Right, but that’s natural. Because it rained. Or there was a storm.

CML: Right, it’s hard to prove a storm is unnatural.

CH: Right. And so the people who are getting sick from extreme pollution, now, they’re all in rural and poor areas...

CML: ...they have no power...

So what I’m saying is that when the crisis hit in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was affecting even the people who had money. Coastal properties stank. And they stank for the rich and they stank for the poor.

CH: But today - we’re getting more storms. Well, I guess we’ll build a storm wall or we’ll put embankments around our house, or we’ll raise our foundation a few feet. That’s short term, not long term.

CML: And that’s it, the interesting thing to me is that we’re talking about coastal problems not just along oceans but anywhere there is a waterway, which is everywhere...

CH: ...lakes, rivers, glaciers...

CML: Yes. Everywhere there is a waterway, any kind of water as a body will be affected by climate change and that affects you. This happened with [Hurricanes] Florence and Michael where they were felt much farther inland with terrible consequences than anyone expected - and it had happened before.

CH: That was the case with [Storm] Irene. Remember the whole warning about Irene up here? Not much happened in New York City...

CML: But upstate...

CH: dumped so much rain that the flooding in Vermont, New Hampshire, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey...

CML: They’re still recovering from it.

CH: They’ve had to rebuild.

CML: This is why waterways are so key to awareness because every waterway is subject to climate change. Maybe that’s the way we can find a way to the Great Awakening if there was a dispersal of knowledge around people’s specific waterways...

CH: Um hmmmmm....

CML: ...if educators went around and said “So how’s your waterway been lately? Well this is what’s happened and this is what’s happened. Oh that’s because...that would be climate change.” I don’t know if it would work but if we are discussing how to reach more positive futures when climate change is so intractable or impossible to sense, the education campaign would have to be one where people could absorb without having to think politically in that way. Just, okay let’s observe what’s in our backyard.

CH: Right. You have to talk about what people can hear, see, and feel. So that it’s tangible.

CH: Maybe this is why “Sunk Shore” as a tour is effective, because it is so site-based. Think if we could get access to more shorelines...

CML: Yeah, that’s the plan.

Carolyn Hall is a Brooklyn, NY based historical marine ecologist, Bessie award winning dancer/performer, and scientific communication instructor. She has worked with numerous choreographers and companies both nationally and internationally and is currently involved in projects with Carrie Ahern, Third Rail Projects, and Clarinda Mac Low/TRYST. As a freelance ecologist she has worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Environmental Defense Fund, and is the research assistant and fact checker for the best selling author Paul Greenberg. She also teaches with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Interdisciplinary public engagement projects that combine her artist and scientist halves increasingly intrigue her, which has happily led to becoming a part of the Works on Water and Underwater New York communities.

Clarinda Mac Low started out working in dance and molecular biology and now creates participatory installations and events that investigate social constructs and corporeal experience, with a recent concentration on climate change. She is also Executive Director of Culture Push, an experimental organization that links artistic practice, social justice, and civic engagement, a co-founder of Works on Water, an organization that supports artists working with water as site and material, and a medical journalist specializing in HIV/AIDS. Mac Low has recently “performed” dramaturgy for Katy Pyle’s Ballez, David Thomson’s he his own mythical beast, and Gender/Power (Maya Ciarrocchi and Kris Grey), among others. Grants and honors include a BAX Award in 2004, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant, and a 2007 and 2010 Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art grant. Mac Low holds a BA, double major in Dance and Molecular Biology, from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Digital and Interdisciplinary Arts Practice from CCNY-CUNY. She currently teaches at NYU (ITP). 

Undulation by Elizabeth Velazquez

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Elizabeth Velazquez was in residence on Governors Island from July 9-August 5, 2018.

Dimensions: 180 x 30 inches
Materials: Vellum, graphite, plastic, fabric, mica, shell, chalk, and acrylic

Artist Statement: The project Bodies, Water & Spirit Realm centers water—its beauty, sacredness, and the injustice held by the bodies of water around New York City. There was devastating loss of human and ecological life in the waters as settler colonialism began, including the waters surrounding the area of Pagganuck (Governors Island). Remembering those lives reverently and contemplating how these bodies of water connect with a historical past are essential to Bodies, Water & Spirit Realm.

Many stories can be told of the past from the way that events and people are memorialized or not memorialized. The placards located on Governors Island are examples of how stories of native presence remain under-recognized and dishonored. The piece titled Undulation includes rubbings from the only placard on Governors Island that references the Lenape.

Elizabeth Velazquez creates mixed media/sculptural works, installation and rituals. She currently lives in Queens, NY. Her process centers on destruction and reconstruction, and connecting with a desire to transform physical, psychological, and social injustices. Elizabeth is a founding member of SEQAA (Southeast Queens Artist Alliance) and is also a core member of NYCORE (New York Collective of Radical Educators). In 2018, she participated in the SEQ Biennial through which she received a commission for new work from No Longer Empty Curatorial Lab. Ms. Velazquez earned a mini-grant from the 2018 Reimagine End of Life festival for the completion of a ritual at Washington Square Park, NY. During the summer of 2018, she created new work at a residency with WoW(Works on Water) /Underwater New York at Governors Island. Elizabeth currently holds a residency at Cigar Factory located in LIC, Queens, and is a recipient of the 2019 apexart International Fellowship.

the channel grounds (opal) by Simone Johnson

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Simone Johnson was in residence on Governors Island from August 6-September 2, 2018.


In connection with my project the channel ground(s) opal, which focuses on experimental, participatory and collaborative explorations of water and communication, I created an eco-demographic survey draft that includes elements of water. I wondered what a demographic survey would be like if it was framed within place-based ecological perspectives. For me, my social identity is reinforced in myriad ways, and filling out demographic surveys where my identity as a human being is separated from the rest of nature makes me go down a rabbit hole of inquiry. It makes me wonder about demographic surveys, which feel like an attempt to capture or standardize our identities or fit us all neatly in a box. Somehow this approach to information gathering and dissemination doesn't provide a full picture of who we are, especially our relationship to ecology.

I see demographic surveys as tools that aid in and reinforce the construction of identity. Ultimately, I am asking: How can we develop an eco-demographic survey that specifically focuses on water, and in this case, New York City and the Northeast region? Would asking about the bodies of water that respondents live near or depend on have an impact on our relationship with water and the Earth? Could we shift perception, behavior, and mainstream cultural protocols with eco-demographic surveys? How can demographic surveys be re-imagined to include our identities as a part of the Earth?

The idea and language around this survey still needs to be unpacked, but I want to share this because I would like feedback from people from different disciplines. What works here and what needs more critical reflection?

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, suggestions, feedback, and ideas! I am also interested in continuing to develop this survey through cross disciplinary collaboration. Please write to me at

Simone Johnson is an interdisciplinary artist. She is currently dreaming up a water library.

A Stack of Water by Micki Watanabe Spiller

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Micki Watanabe Spiller was in residence on Governors Island from May 21-June 24, 2018.

a stack of water.jpg

Summer Memories Retrieved by Novels, as well as the Sights, Sounds, and Smells of a Site

My mother—a Christian in a sea of Japanese Buddhists—lifted my name from the Judeo-Christian Bible. Everyone knows Psalm 23, even if you are Hindu or Muslim. It’s the one recited at memorials or spoken by the British minister in the movies:

The LORD is my Shepherd I shall not want.
He maketh me lie down in green pastures
He leadeth me beside still waters.

My birth name Migiwa is a literal translation from Japanese of the phrase “beside still waters.” I was always uncomfortable growing up in the Midwest, where my name gave me an outsider status. As an agnostic teenager, I spent summers in Japan with my evangelical mother. Those sweltering Augusts were both painful, as I played the returning prodigal child, and rejuvenating, as I learned the culture of my seaside homeland through more mature eyes.

Both memories reappeared last summer during my residency on Governors Island. My artistic practice has focused on reading, writing, and sewing, where literature influences the structures and garments I create. My task on Governors Island was to read novels with the word water in the title, looking for themes and quotes to embroider into a new body of studio works.   

Every day, as I rode my bike along the East River to the Governors Island ferry terminal, I would come to a section of the path under construction, and the smell of the brackish water would signal that I was nearing the terminal. At the same moment, an image of a little girl with her grandmother sitting in the undercarriage of a ferry would appear in my mind. In Japan, I grew up riding a ferry with my grandmother from Oshima to the mainland to shop and visit cousins and friends. Though the body of water may be different, the Governors Island ferry felt like home. The ride across the slip of water surrounding New York City is shorter than my childhood ferry ride, but I walked upon the same uneven surface of the boat, smelled the same diesel fumes, and felt the same wind whip-tangle my hair.

On my first morning commute, I met a city kid on his way to the high school on Governors Island. I thought of that slow island life in Japan. I would have commuted to the mainland for high school had I stayed. He told me about his plans to graduate and get the hell out of New York City, to work as a tanker mechanic and sail to Japan. He will traverse my route in reverse, and I am certain he will see the world as I have.

As I walked from the ferry landing to the old paint-peeling officer’s house in Nolan Park, I thought about Marcel Proust. There are two routes from the ferry landing. Just as the narrator of In Search of Lost Time had a “front way” and a “back way” on his Sunday strolls, each of my routes to the house evoked different memories. The front way took me along a historical, Wharton-esque, tree-lined, brick road to Nolan Park 5B, where I climbed the wooden steps, passed the porch swing stirred by a slight breeze, and finally entered the front library foyer. The back way took me past the Billion Oyster Project, through wafting smells of shellfish and decomposing organic matter, past the port-a-potty, to enter the house by the back kitchen, where I suspect the servants used to come and go.

There is a lot of water imagery in the Christian Bible: baptisms, renewal, rebirth, cleansing away the wrongs of humanity. Trying to be open-minded about my mother’s religion, I hoped to encounter these themes in the chosen stack of books while sitting at my window in Nolan Park, looking out across the watery expanse toward Brooklyn. But as I read novels such as The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus, At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen, and Dead Water by Ann Cleeves, I found distinct and varied stories, from sappy romances to mysteries. Most were macabre, as water became an ominous and sinister place for hiding, dumping, or punishing.

These are some of the places I traveled while sitting still: Baltimore, South Carolina, Houston bayous, the reservoirs of Wyoming, El Salvador, Brazil, Scotland, London, the Shetland Islands, Istanbul, Sicily, France, and the waters surrounding the islands that make up Japan. The resulting piece, currently in-progress, combines narratives I lifted out of the novels along with recollections of my Japanese island, which are embroidered on fabrics that will be made into a book jacket. This work now sits in a cold studio in Long Island City, weaving together old and new memories while histories of a place are overlaid through titles and fabrics—the flotsam and jetsam of a narrative life.

Find more about Micki Watanabe Spiller at

Waterhouse Works Series by Sto Len and Maggie Haslam

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Sto Len and Maggie Haslam were in residence on Governors Island from July 23-August 5, 2018.

Dimensions: 11 x 14 inches
Materials: Oil paint, debris, buttermilk channel water, watercolor, on paper

Artist Statement, Sto Len: When I first arrived on the island, I began walking the perimeter in an attempt to be as close to the water as possible. I collected things I found along the way: sticks, leaves, fish bones, rocks, sea shells, and a bucket of water from the Buttermilk Channel. I brought all of this back to the house and filled my inflatable swimming pool with the water, which would be my canvas for the duration of the residency. My daily art practice is a kind of meditational printmaking on the surface of water. I paint with oil and enamel floating on the water, along with other natural debris that creates a colorful stew. Patterns emerge over time, and then I lay paper down to capture the moment with a monoprint. I noticed my studio neighbor, Maggie Haslam, was using water on paper too. She formed puddles on her works and was allowing time to have its way, eventually drying into colorful organic forms. She saw the similarities in my work, too, and we began trading paper back and forth, printing and puddling on them until the pieces seemed finished. We continue to collaborate following our residency, trading work through the mail.

Artist Statement, Maggie Haslam: While working on Governors Island, I used collected water from the river and from rain water in my paintings. I wanted to give the water a voice, and so I allowed it to be a tool, limiting my use of a paint brush. Instead, I used methods of pouring and dripping, allowing the paint to settle onto the paper to create an image. Sto worked in the studio next to mine, and we realized right away that we both used water's natural flowing characteristics as a primary method to create imagery with our paint. The outcome of each of our processes is a moment of the water's movement that is captured on paper.

Sto Len: My current body of work transforms the traditional printmaking art of Suminagashi (floating ink) into an experimental collaboration with nature and a site of discourse on environmentalism and art activism. Working en plein air (often from a boat), I use my own marbling-like process to print directly off of the surface of urban waterways with paper. The end results are ghostly imprints that contain both the natural and anthropogenic residue of the site’s history. During these urban explorations, I document my journeys with photographs, video, collections and field recordings that give visibility to a city’s unseen and neglected watershed areas. These trips have also recently include memory walks open to the public, site-specific interventions, impromptu bbqs, water rituals, and solar-powered noise concerts.

Recent work in New York, Rhode Island, Colombia, and Vietnam has enabled my studio to be as large as a river and a practice that is becoming increasingly nomadic and global. In between travels, I maintain an ongoing studio practice using controlled bodies of water in inflatable swimming pools with combinations of oil paint, dirt, spray paint, and extended periods of time, to create colorful, patterned compositions on paper, maps, found materials, and wood that celebrate the materiality of water and the immateriality of memory.

Maggie Haslam (born 1988) grew up in Washington D.C. and received her BFA in studio art from BYU in 2013. After graduation, Maggie moved to New York City, and continued her art education at Pratt Institute, receiving her MFA in painting in 2016.

Maggie primarily works in water based paints on paper. She designs situations where she relinquishes total control over the medium, allowing the flowing characteristics of the paint and water to act naturally on paper. The end result is often simply the process caught in the act.

Since 2017, Maggie has collaborated with a fellow artist in a residency program located in Beginning with Children Charter School in Brooklyn, New York. They have worked together with the help of the middle school students on a project relating to immigration and displacement. In the summer of 2018, Maggie received a residency on Governors Island, New York with Underwater New York/Works On Water where she used only collected and recycled water to make art with. Maggie has been teaching children in Upper Manhattan/Westchester with Scribble Art Workshop since 2017.

Maggie lives and works in Manhattan, New York.

Synthetic Tides by Tessa Grundon

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island residency. Tessa Grundon was in residence on Governors Island in 2018.

Artist Statement: The walls of my September studio seep the residue of passing storms and rising tides, and perhaps even now, the damp evidence of Hurricane Sandy. The peeling paint already map-like in its distribution leaves forms of flooded landscapes and archipelagosislands of plaster, primer, lead, and latex. Holding my breath behind my mask, I excavate further, causing new erosions. Seas rise up and swallow land masses as more paint loses its hold and falls to the floor revealing new coastlines in old layers, strata of decades not millennia. New rivers course along old cracks, fracturing in familiar branching patterns. On another wall, fissures become tributaries, waterborne diseases growing out of the rising and polluted tidesdrinking water delivering old threats to new places; countries at war for this increasingly scarce commodity. I push the large pile of unsound scrapings into a corner, a small mountain of evidence that what we throw away will always be here.

Outside, cut off from the shore by a chain-link fence, I photograph the debris in situ. Garbage from across the globe that has passed unimpeded through time zones, borders, and security checks is caught now in the rocks of the reconstructed coastline of this Paggank, this Noten Eylandt. Stranded are ship ropes, the soles of shoes, plastic fencing, and fishing lines; a “No Crossing” barrier and a mass of assorted styrofoam; door panels, a still-rolled and broken sail, a five-gallon bucket and plastic sheeting; liquor bottles, water bottles, mini-bar bottles, and soda bottles; a giant, stuffed and sodden, once-white carnival bear; a car bumper, the sheafing remains of a cardboard box that once held Slow & Low rye whiskey 84 proof; wave-churned, smooth-polished tree limbs; beams from broken buildings jutting with rusty nails; fishing nets and landscape matting; a golf ball, footballs, soccer balls, soft balls, and a child’s nubby, plastic, bouncy ball that used to light up; furniture parts; free-flying, green plastic pallet strapping; three helium balloonsone bright pink; assorted seaweeds, and a walnut worn smooth by its journey back to this Nut Island. I find a way to reach past the high fence and grab some pieces to work with and haul my stash back to my light-filled, damp-filled, paint-shedding studio accompanied by a chorus of kinglets and helicopters.  

Working with images of the seaweed and materials from the rocky strand-line, I experiment with photographic mono-prints. I let the inks flow and bleed across their natural borderlines, breaking through the surface tension, abstracting the original image almost beyond recognition. I notice changes in the viscosity of the ink as the humidity changes from day to day. I make collections of found objects and study the seaweeds I have foundmainly Fucus vesiculosus (Bladderwrack) and Ulva (Sea lettuce) that thrive in the surrounding waters of New York Harbor. The vibrant green Ulva flourishes in nitrogen-rich, polluted watersa signifier, the canary in the coalmine. Bladderwrack has many names, including rockweed, black tang, cut weed, sea oak and dyers fucus. I copy and cut its dendritic forms from oil-sleek black, plastic garbage bags and suspend them together in water. They sway entwined, almost indistinguishable as one leaches pollutants and the other absorbs, one releasing, the other containing.

With grateful thanks to Mauricio Gonzalez, head of Marine Biology and Science Research at New York Harbor School and his 11th grade class, for all their help and instruction collecting and analyzing harbor mud and seaweed. 

Find more about Tessa Grundon at

mool, soom (water, breath) by Jianna Jihyun Park

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Jianna Jihyun Park was in residence on Governors Island from September 4-30, 2018.


wanted to reach the ocean bottom
and fall asleep there, i knew
of the blue caress
shredded sunlight
undercurrent lullaby.
it wasn’t a wish for an end
just a wish for something bluer.
sleepless children dragged
their feet from one stone
to another as the mermaids
tried to snatch them with
refined reef, dreamless sleep,
sheep counting bubbles
coming out of a girl’s gaping mouth.
close. open. no words, no teeth, hollow
cave of semi-pondered abandon.
deep down a whale crooned
open. close. visions undulate, blur—
when i became water
i knew of the coolness of her skin,
endless bed made of sand
where bodies lay
as if sleeping
as if dreaming
dreams leaking
sleepless sea 

sea urchin gently poked into my finger
as I turned the stone and reach for the day’s catch.
“too small,” said the haenyeo who threw it
back to the sea.
on the news, a Chinese lady was preparing dinner
when a crawfish whisker poked her finger—
she died the next day of bacterial infection.
“what about dinner?” a child asks.
the diver who sent the baby urchin back
to the sea says it’s too hot, one can’t dine,
i mean dive, with the wetsuit on.
white reefs can’t tell the living and the dead
while abalones hide deeper into abyss.
on the news, the dinner table is empty
& so is the ocean.

Materials: Digital C-print, clear label film

Artist Statement: How does a body endure grief and guilt at the twilight of neoliberalism that has often overlooked the values such as empathy, community, and sustainability? How is the role of haenyeo (female free divers) who dive into the cold water to collect memories of the ocean similar to that of an artist who seeks to retrieve memories of lost bodies? Combined with the images captured near the island, the texts examine the poetics of grief, loss and breath, and imagine a human ecology not subsumed by the economy of mass production and hyperproductivity.

Find more about Jianna Jihyun Park at

Untitled, Clam/Lens by Alex Branch and Amina Cain

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Alex Branch was in residence on Governors Island from October 15-31, 2018.

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And if I had lived differently, in a different part of the ocean? If I had lived in a different ocean altogether, would I too be different? If I was burrowing in warm water at the base of a coral reef instead of in cold water burrowing only into sand. I would miss the snow and ice that turns the ocean colder. I too like seasons, though you might not think it of me. It’s part of what makes me feel alive. I don’t need to go to exotic places, but I do need change. It’s the way I understand time, and even if it wounds me, I respect it a great deal. I see myself among other clams. We look so similar, yet we’re so various inside. One of us enjoys the full moon, another, eels. You wouldn’t think of a clam liking an eel, but why shouldn’t we be excited by other beings in the ocean? We’re not alone here; we know that well. Yet, in a way we are. Sometimes I feel very lonesome even when others are around me. 

Dimensions: 4.5 x 3 inches
Materials: Clam, lens, internal written piece by Amina Cain

Artist Statement: For my residency on Governors Island I planned to work on building models of the boat I'll be making in St. Louis this winter but I couldn't stop working with clams. I had found a clam shell on a trip to Dead Horse Bay earlier in the summer and kept wondering if I could somehow make that clam into a book. While I was on the island I did many experiments with the clam form. This piece was a collaboration between me and the LA based writer Amina Cain who wrote this piece especially for the inside of this clamshell.

Find more about Alex Branch at

Aquapolis 2100 by /rive collective

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. /rive collective was in residence on Governors Island in 2018.

Aquapolis 2100  [6 minutes, HD video]
/rive Collective [ Laura Chipley, Samara Smith, A.E. Souzis]

Aquapolis 2100 is a collaborative project by the art collective /rive exploring New York City's rising sea levels, which could rise up to as much as 6 feet higher by 2100. Each weekend of the WoW/UNY residency in summer 2018, /rive invited Governors Island visitors to draw what they imagine New York might look like in 2100 and sketch up their ideas—both practical and fantastical—about what they could do to deal with this crisis. This video piece features animations of these drawings set in the backdrop of an increasingly watery New York.

/rive is a Brooklyn-based artist collective focused on site-specific, locative projects that meet at the intersection of psychogeography, locative media and documentary narrative. Most projects are set in, and explore, urban public spaces. Inspired by social practice, /rive embraces collaborative and participatory methodologies, blurring the boundaries between maker, subject and audience. Members Laura Grace Chipley, Samara Smith and A.E. Souzis have exhibited at the Queens Museum, Hammer Museum, Bronx Museum, New York Hall of Science, Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Art in Odd Places and beyond.

Next Time on Earth by Rejin Leys

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Rejin Leys was in residence on Governors Island from May 21-June 24, 2018.

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Dimensions: Variable
Materials: Pencil, collage, relief prints and gouache on handmade paper, tracing paper and printed

Artist Statement: Next Time on Earth is a speculative drawing project, created during my residency on Governors Island, that imagines a possible future where the sea has covered the land.

Rejin Leys is a mixed media artist and paper maker based in New York, whose work has been exhibited at such venues as Centro Cultural de España, Santo Domingo, DR; Kentler International Drawing Space, NY; Queens Museum, NY; and Les Ateliers J.R. Jerome, PaP, Haiti. Her work is in the collections of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Yale University, and Rutgers University Caribbean Studies Department, and she is a recipient of a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Clam Book by Alex Branch

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Alex Branch was in residence on Governors Island from October 15-31, 2018.


Dimensions: 4.5 x 3 inches
Materials: Clam shell, leather, paper and thread

Artist Statement: For my residency on Governors Island I planned to work on building models of the boat I'll be making in St. Louis this winter but I couldn't stop working with clams. I had found a clam shell on a trip to Dead Horse Bay earlier in the summer and kept wondering if I could somehow make that clam into a book. While I was on the island I did many experiments with the clam form.

Find more about Alex Branch at

Floating Garden by Lily Consuela Saporta-Tagiuri

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Lily Consuela Saporta-Tagiuri was in residence on Governors Island from August 20-September 16, 2018.

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Materials: Plants, soil, water proofing fabric, canvas, rope, rubber tube

Artist Statement: Floating Garden is a garden plot designed to withstand flood and allow for food security. It is an open source design that is simple and inexpensive to construct. 

Lily Consuela Saporta-Tagiuri is an industrial designer and creative director based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work addresses emerging climates and conditions of the contemporary metropolis through design interventions. Using video, food, material exploration, products, and installation, she aims to draw attention to underlying social, political, and environmental systems in our modern cities and to explore alternatives.

Eating Water by Lily Consuela Saporta-Tagiuri with Ayasha Guerin

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Lily Consuela Saporta-Tagiuri was in residence on Governors Island from August 20-September 16, 2018. Ayasha Guerin was in residence on Governors Island from October 15-31, 2018.

Duration: One month/ongoing
Materials: Food, ocean, and rain water

Artist Statement:
Lily Consuela Saporta-Tagiuri:
Eating Water is an exploration of how to modify our lifestyles to live in the environments that are emerging as a result of climate change. Using food as a tool to discuss sea-level rise, flood, and drought, the plate becomes an intimate frame through which to serve new recipes and strategies for survival. Made while in residence on Governors Island, this collection includes plates made of ocean and rain water, a pantry of water from around the world, a floating vegetable and herb garden, and 15 recipes using ingredients that are flood-tolerant, drought resistant, or salt-water tolerant. Eating Water is an ongoing project culminating in a series of feasts.

Ayasha Guerin, Photographer: Lily Tagiuri’s Eating Water invited guests to “a tasting and discussion of emerging landscapes and the future of food.” To attend, we would have to catch the ferry from the Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan waterfronts, on a Sunday in late August, to Governors Island. The ferries - which only ran once an hour - departed strictly on time. As a fellow Works on Water resident, I knew the stress of dashing to the pier after a late start or poor train service. It can be an emotional commute to the island, between the pressure of making the ferry on time and the beautiful, moving view of the densely built Metropolis from the open sea. For a city of islanders, our harbor mobility is more limited than many of us water-artists desire.

That Sunday, a crew of fifteen hungry navigators arrived to experience the waterfront-spread. On the Brooklyn-facing side of the island, by the designated grilling fields on Barry Road, the picnic looked out onto the industrial yards of Red Hook. But this would be no barbecue. Guests mingled around a table where plate after plate slowly arrived, a parade of fifteen carefully arranged dishes from the back steps of Nolan Park 5B, the Works on Water residency house. Nearby, families looked on curiously from picnic tables hosting feasts of their own.

LT explained, we would be eating ingredients that can withstand extreme climates, from floods to droughts. Her richly layered food scene resembled a strange landscape of wet and dry patches where fungi, plants, nuts, spilled over a bed of powdery, golden sand, made from blended cookies (vegan, like everything else strewn across a dark blue tarp). Soon, excited human limbs became part of the strange ecology, as we reached, dipped, and stabbed at each delicious dish. Cacti were used as a platter to serve prickly-pear jellies, while other food was plated on ceramics that LT had cast during her residency from rain- and harbor-water. The latter plates hid under large rice cakes that propped seaweed-wrapped taro balls.

As we tasted, LT told us facts about the crops that grow best in flood regions: rice, mushrooms, lotus, and taro. And about those which do particularly well by saltwater: palm, coconut and seaweeds. We discussed the local and foreign landscapes that inspired the meal. We toasted with Mezcal-aloe cocktails as ice melted onto the benches in the sweltering heat. The Mezcal, kept cool in a special block cast to hold its shape, encouraged a conversation about the journey that the agave-spirit, produced on a small farm in Mexico, made to reach New York. After the meal, we took a walk, errantly exploring miles of newly developed park space on the island’s landfill. We pondered the future of the once-water site. At the center of the New York harbor, facing not only development pressures, but the threat of sea level rise and reclamation by powerful storm surges in the coming decades, who will occupy this island?

Lily Consuela Saporta Tagiuri is an industrial designer and creative director based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work addresses emerging climates and conditions of the contemporary metropolis through design interventions. Using video, food, material exploration, products, and installation, she aims to draw attention to underlying social, political, and environmental systems in our modern cities and to explore alternatives.

Ayasha Guerin is an artist and scholar based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work explores themes of urban ecology, community and security in public and private space. She is a PhD candidate in NYU's American Studies department, where her research engages questions about the entanglements of race, nature and value. Her dissertation explores the socio-ecological histories and resiliencies of waterfront communities in Lower Manhattan. She is currently a Fellow of Urban Practice at The Urban Democracy Lab, formerly a Graduate Fellow at NYU's Center for the Humanities, and before, the Andrew W. Mellon Pre-doctoral Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York. 

Waste Side Story by Robin Michals and Lynn Neuman

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Lynn Neuman was in residence on Governors Island from June 25-July 8, 2015. Robin Michals was the photographer in residence on Governors Island.

Artist Statement, Waste Side Story: The goal of Waste Side Story is to place a positive value on creative reuse and repurposing of materials, encouraging and supporting a change in the cultural ethos towards garbage, and to engage with waste as a process, a system of use, a point of interconnection and set of relationships. The project’s result is a series of commanding, beautiful photographs that reposition the concept of consumption and foregrounds the often invisible waste stream behind the average American lifestyle. With sly humor and grace, these images, depicting a woman in the latest trashion (fashion made from trash) moving through the infrastructure of waste collection and disposal, questions the clean, neat surface of contemporary life. Shooting on location, such as waste transfer stations, scrap yards and recycling facilities, landfills, incinerators and wastewater treatment plants, is essential to the visual power and impact of this work.

Artist Statement, Robin Michals: I first photographed Lynn working in her studio at 5B making a costume for a dance performance from plastic bags by ironing them together. I was struck by how this was both a creative reuse of this ubiquitous material and a visually striking way to bring attention to single use plastics. She suggested that I also take some photos of her wearing one of the costumes. She put on this amazing Rei Kawakubo-style dress made from plastic bags stamped with “Thank You” that had a long train. We decided to shoot by the fence that runs along the waterfront. In a moment of good fortune, a wake crashed behind Lynn, splashing high as she stood against the fence, highlighting the shape of the dress. The water droplets added that extra something to the photo, making clear how the location could add meaning to the costume. As a proof of concept, we shot in the parking area of the Sunset Park Sanitation Depot in September. We are now planning the series Waste Side Story in which we will create photographs of Lynn in costume moving through locations where the waste stream is processed to create compelling images that foreground what it takes to support current levels of consumption.

Lynn Neuman is a performer, choreographer, teacher, producer and Director of Artichoke Dance Company. She pursues art’s intersection with daily life and addresses pressing ecological realities with physicality and wit. Lynn was a 2016/17 Association of Performing Arts Presenters Leadership Fellow and is the first choreographer to be awarded a Marion International Fellowship for the Visual and Performing Arts (2015/16). She has been commissioned to create work by Dixon Place, Joffrey Ballet School, Brooklyn Arts Council, DUMBO Development District, The Soraya, and higher education institutes across the country. As an educator and presenter, she is highly regarded and sought after for her work in community engagement and the merging of arts and environmentalism. Lynn believes in the power of the arts to effect positive change in people’s lives and communities. To this end, she works with a variety of populations promoting cultural literacy by engaging people in dance experiences.

Find more about Robin Michals at

Three Poems from Night Crossing by Kelly Sullivan

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Kelly Sullivan was in residence on Governors Island from October 15-31, 2018.


Say nothing is boring. Say there is no where
we cannot find the husk of something
and dig its fine lining, the white thread up
the cicadas’ split trunk. Say there are forty-

five words for the way a helicopter’s rotor blade
fucks up this city. Say we have a job to do,
a field to cull, a closet to open and inside, bees,

woven through the fabric of the wall. Say there are
five or six small tricks we use to fix the planet’s
last gasp, and when we do we open up

ourselves. Then cleave. Split against the grain, move
sideways through the narrow pass, divide
and divide, rehash, repeat, announce a line or two

of industry inside these walls. The plaster falls.
Reveal the grid of honeybees, each cell full
to dripping, each insect’s eye divided to a thousand

tiny globes as if, in concentration, we could
replicate their quiet production, split
and make our own planet again and again, dripping

with the richness of it. Say, then, we just
move on to the next, another range of mountains,
blush of leaves across the cooler hip,

another split river carving out a canyon
for a helicopter to explode in sound. Shut
your mouth on that. We know it is not pass on and pass

on but slowly rising glacier melt. The elm outside
survived disease in the shelter of the island’s
isolated belt. An archipelago of human craft

engulfing it with cells of city blocks, apartments,
windows. Our eyes to the glass. Hands pressed
against it. Just one place. Cleave tight and don’t let go.

Coat Without a Body

Distended to the left, one sleeve
half-tucked at the cuff, dirty
around the collar and ripped
at the edge. Did the man stand up
and walk to the ledge
and leave? Did the woman
take her husband’s coat
when she came across, her night
journey cold, the waves rocking
the small wooden craft?
Is it left at rest, or to rot, moth-
eaten, a drip of paint across
the seam. The brass buttons
gone green.

Styrofoam Stone After the Nor’Easter

Washed up with a line
of dreck. Thrown across
a wooden deck, a wave
of rubbish, human packing
swept in a sheet
of slick dross. A couple
takes turns photographing
each other with
this bridge
spanning the sky. Storm
surge over at three. It’s
going dark
and sand grits
against our feet. I kick
the styrofoam stone
and watch it catch the wind
and blow back in.

Artist Statement: These three poems —“Cleave,” “Coat Without a Body,” and “Styrofoam Stone”—were written for a collection in progress, titled Night Crossing (previously Toledo Blade), a book that explores crossings—rivers, dreams, countries, borders, climates.

Kelly Sullivan is a writer and academic living in New York City. She teaches Irish Studies at New York University. Find more about her at

Misdirected Flow by Edmund Mooney

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Edmund Mooney was in residence on Governors Island from July 9-22, 2018.

Duration: 9 minutes
Materials: Video

Artist Statement: Misdirected Flow is a meditation on the industrialization of a natural resource and the effects of its environmental degradation, rippling out into the surrounding community, upsetting the natural order and causing or inspiring a multitude of injuries and deaths. The Gowanus Creek was a salt marsh of great renown that the Canarsee tribe fished, hunted, and lived on. The Dutch settled there because it reminded them of their native land and they immediately set about taming the waters for their own benefit. The oysters and clams and fish and game pulled from its waters were known the world over as exceptional. Soon after the canalization was completed in the 1840s, people and animals started dying there. Converting the tidal creek into a canal fundamentally changed contact with the water, from the gently sloping banks formed in the last ice age to an abrupt edge dropping off to a a uniform depth well over 10 feet. The resulting cognitive dissonance was deadly: people who couldn’t swim (most everyone in those days) would enter the canal where they used to go wading, only to find that they couldn’t get out.  

We don’t look at the Gowanus and think of a rainforest, but it once teemed with nearly as much biodiversity. Salt marshes are the 2nd most productive and bio-diverse biomes on earth, behind only the rainforest. When the tidal creek was  converted to a canal, it was done on the cheap. Self-cleaning measures were foregone, and the canal became a viaduct for combined sewer and storm drain outflows, a cost-saving shortcut for sewage, rather than taking it all the way to the bay. The canal was designed to become incredibly polluted very quickly and it did just that.  

The canalification of this tidal salt marsh began with the Dutch and increased after an 1826 state decree allowing all land up to 400 feet beyond the low water mark to be developed. My work since 2010 has been more and more focused on the environmental effects of policies like this, on the impact of urban “progress.” In my historical obsessiveness, I see the city as palimpsests or erasures. Each erasure takes a toll on historical reality until no one can really remember what used to be there, and more importantly, how it was to be there. My explorations are an attempt to get back to the ground truth—or the water truth. This piece is the third in a series of meditations on loss of natural resources in the larger Brooklyn/Queens watershed, from the Hunters Point South/Newtown Creek area, to the Flushing River, and now the Gowanus Creek/Canal. The underwater sound and video recordings are my attempt to enter the unswimmable waters and imagine the final resting place of all the people and animals lost. The newspaper clippings anchor the aqueous recordings with their matter-of-fact descriptions. The tragedy of loss is quietly illustrated in the photojournalists’ crumpled images.

Find more about Edmund Mooney at

Gowanus Time Slip Map by Edmund Mooney

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Edmund Mooney was in residence on Governors Island from July 9-22, 2018.

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Materials: Archival ink jet print on paper
Dimensions: 57 x 26 inches

Artist Statement: An 18th-century map of Gowanus Creek was overlaid with a 1990 aerial photo of the Gowanus Canal. The layers were then finessed until a fusion of graphic content was achieved.

Find more about Edmund Mooney at