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.

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.

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

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

The Language of Water by Valerie Sullivan Fuchs

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Valerie Sullivan Fuchs was in residence on Governors Island from October 1-14, 2018.

Dimensions: Dimensions variable
Materials: Paper, inflatable, etched glass vessels, ice, photography, plastic buckets, paper, test tubes, plastic containers

Artist Statement: Being raised on a sustainable farm, and living in a geo-thermally heated home in rural Kentucky, I am influenced by and often integrate sustainable energy practices into my artwork. In anticipation of the fall residency, I created Power-Fall, 2018, a video where the waterfall of a creek, not only generates the movement of the camera, but also provides the energy for the camera battery, via a small hydro-electric generator. Alternative energy power, allows me to see the aesthetic and conceptual possibilities of energy, as I did with Power Plant, 2018, an installation at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, in Louisville, Kentucky, where the light of the projector powers the projector.

With the Works on Water/Underwater New York Residency on Governors Island I took a different approach to energy, the unseen energy, manifested through intention and transference. I was inspired by the Hidden Messages of Water, a book written by Masaru Emoto, about his research on the enigmatic nature of water. Emoto placed water in containers with negative and positive words written on them, which he would freeze, and then with a microscopic camera, record the crystalline structures. His findings demonstrated that positive words/phrases, like “thank you, gratitude” would produce a more perfect structure of the frozen water. Accordingly, negative words, like “fool” would produce imperfect structures.

For The Language of Water, I gathered water from the East River, and conducted a similar experiment by first etching, and writing words, like “love” and “hate” in English and computer code, on glass vessels, freezing the water and then recording the results with photographs. In order to restore a balancing energy to the water after my experiment, I became an ordained minister in the state of New York to perform an energy rebalancing ritual before I returned the water back to the East River.

Valerie Sullivan Fuchs considers the transference of energy between nature, technology, and us with solar power, hydroelectricity, ritual, and video installations. Collections: 21c Museum, Revive Corporation, & Laura Lee Brown & Steve Wilson. Exhibitions: Spring/Break Art Show, New York, NY; 21c Museum, Bentonville, AR, & Cincinnati OH; at the Kentucky Center for Art;  American Embassy, Stockholm, Sweden; Contemporary Arts Museum, Santa Barbara, California; Non Grata Film & Video Festival, Pärnu, Estonia;  Galerie Eugene Lendl, Graz, Austria;  BELEF Art Festival, Belgrade, Serbia; Louisville International Airport; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY;  Publications:  Beauty Unlimited;   Bibliography:  Art Papers, Dialogue, American Theatre.  Awards: Great Meadows Foundation; Hadley Creatives Fellow; Al Smith Fellow; KY Foundation for Women. Program Mentor, Graduate School, with MFA The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.