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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.

Survivalist Cinema 1 (Water) by Rachel Stevens

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


Dimension and/or Duration: 6min
Materials: Video (Appropriated footage processed with analog processing tools)

Artist Statement: Scenes from 1970s ecological disaster and survivalist films were sampled and processed using analog signal processing tools. During the residency I was able to take the time to isolate scenes specifically involving water and edit them into an experimental piece with a kind of dramatic arc.


Rachel Stevens is an NYC-based artist and researcher interested in social ecologies, critical geography and experimental media. As half of the collaboration Oyster City (with Meredith Drum) she created an Augmented Reality walking tour and game about oysters in NYC and the Fish Stories Community Cookbook, a publication for Paths to Pier 42 that drew together recipes, stories, drawings and ecological information contributed by people living and working in the Lower East Side. She is an editor of Millennium Film Journal and teaches in the Hunter College Integrated Media Art MFA. Recently Rachel has participated in residencies with Works on Water/Underwater New York, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, iLand and Signal Culture.