Posts Tagged ‘WetLand’

Artist Kim Reid on WetLand

Posted September 12th, 2014

kim reidKim Reid is an artist, professor, and curator at the Sweatshop Gallery in Omaha, Nebraska. From August 22 to September 6, she has been an artist-in-residence on WetLand, Mary Mattingly’s floating barge, which currently serves as a living space, performance area, greenhouse, and symbol of environmental disaster. Below, she discusses the importance of community spaces and how place influences her creative process.

How did you hear about WetLand? What inspired you to want to take up residence?
Mary and I met when she came to Omaha to create and install her Flock Houses at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. I felt an immediate connection with her and the art. I was very fascinated and wanted to understand her working process. The bundles and images she uses in her work were familiar to me. One important moment in my interaction with Mary was that we had both traveled in the Philippines. This shared but separate experience was apparent in her process and imagery. The mass migration from country to city had people living on every inch of space, including dumps and wastewater. After working on the design/build portion of the Flock House project and spending time with Mary, she invited me to WetLand. Alternative, hand-built shelters and transient ways [of living] have always captivated me and I feel that WetLand will be an interesting transmission of these ideas.

As an artist, teacher, and curator, how do you balance the different parts of your professional life? How do they influence each other?
Balancing my life as an artist, teacher and curator is a bit like running back and forth on a seesaw. Teaching allows me to advocate and encourage people in their strengths, curating helps engage the community, and making art give my voice a place. They create a holistic dialogue for my work.

How does living in Nebraska relate to your work? How do you think space and location inspire you? What about living on WetLand do you think will be the most familiar? The most challenging?

I think being landlocked in Omaha has significantly impacted my work. The inability to get anywhere else easily makes it particularly insular. The Nebraska landscape is long and wide. The plains serve as a barrier, a desert to cross. Because of this, the need to make my own world, or fun, has fueled my drive to create.

Because of my advocacy work through the Sweatshop Gallery, the prospect of working with other artists and participants is especially exciting. As far as challenges, I was a bit nervous about feeling seasick.

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Yoga at WetLand

Posted September 11th, 2014

On Fridays during the 2014 Fringe Festival, the WetLand barge will become home to more than just artists, gardens, and chickens. This eccentric menagerie has been joined by a rotating cast of yoga teachers from Dhyana Yoga, who will be leading a variety of classes on the pier. One of those teachers is Malik Wilson, a Philly-based Vinyasa yoga teacher and personal trainer. He brought his philosophical advice and expertise to WetLand on August 29 as a way to help others more deliberately connect with the natural world.

For Wilson, being in nature is an integral part of the practice of yoga, bridging the gap between people and the five elements that he sees as comprising each one of us – earth, fire, water, metal, and wood. “Nature, and being in tune with it, is is the ultimate foundation and groundwork that I use,” he said. During every class, Wilson asks his students to stand like trees, extending their roots into the earth, to feel the ground through their heels while reaching their crown towards “the life-giving source.” He encourages his students to “feel free to wobble,” to sway like trees, embodying a gentle strength. In addition to using natural principles in his teaching, Wilson prefers to lead classes outside. Doing so, he feels, erases some of the exclusivity that might seem to surround yoga. “Outside,” Wilson said, “the mystique is gone and everyone is just here to practice.”

However, he admits, staying focused outdoors can be a challenge, especially in light of yoga’s emphasis on stilling the mind. He describes someone sitting down in a field on a beautiful day, closing one’s eyes, and then being jolted out of peace by a buzzing fly and thinking, “This is a dumb-ass idea, why did you want to come out here?” Wilson’s advice: “You just need to chill out, like the flowers. Everything else is chilling out,” he said, gesturing to the earth, wind, and sky.

Wilson cares about environmental issues with the eloquence of a close-to-the-earth yogi. He sees our current global warming predicament in terms of animals caught in a bind, unable to tap into nature’s gift of adaptation. While most creatures have the instincts to change with their circumstances, humans are a different story, “with these big-ass brains that we don’t use,” he said. Wilson is excited to be involved with WetLand, a project that sees adaptation as a deliberate–and necessary–choice, but one that requires radical action rather than automatic adjustment. Dhyana Yoga encourages its teachers to give back through community service in addition to their classes, and Wilson sees his collaboration with FringeArts and the WetLand project as an opportunity to involve himself more deeply with two efforts he cares about: conservation and bringing art to as many people as possible.

When Wilson moved back to Philadelphia four years ago, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. One day, he was walking up Walnut Street when a sign for free yoga in Rittenhouse Square caught his eye–and then he remembered. “The one common ground that I know is going to be in my life is yoga,” he said. “It’s like freedom.” Wilson first discovered yoga in 1996, when he used it to warm up before practicing martial arts. “I couldn’t keep those long martial arts practices, but the yoga stuck,” he said. The free yoga class eventually led to a job, which led to a career, and Wilson’s path began to take shape.

However, Wilson thinks, being lost can be the starting point for evaluating where you are. Figuring out one’s destination at this point is not important. “If we’re on the bus to New York and lost,” he said, “Nobody’s going to be talking about, ‘Where’s New York?’” Using these moments as catalysts for self-exploration is integral to Wilson’s philosophy. It’s important, also, to be in our own bodies, once we figure out where we are. “Your down dog isn’t going to look like mine,” Wilson tells his students. “Be where you’re at.”

Preventing us from being perfectly or fully, from self-realization and the peace that yoga promises, are restraints that Wilson is fully aware of. He paraphrases the Japanese philosopher, Suzuki, who divides beings into the self and becoming, “our inalienable right to be just as much as we can possibly be without being disturbed.” Being disturbed, Wilson believes, can be a result of racism or politics or stereotypes. Although we have the right to journey on the path to becoming, Wilson does not view his rights passively. “It’s something you still have to struggle to establish and maintain. You can’t take your rights for granted.”

Before we can become, too, we have to be. “There’s no radical transformation without first having radical acceptance,” Wilson said, referring specifically to situations that challenge us, the ones we may not want to inhabit. Another aphorism that Wilson has adopted is that of the tree, from which you cannot receive fruit until it’s grown. We cannot receive what we need until we cultivate a foundation and establish ourselves in a place and time. Wilson believes strongly in the importance of “owning your story, owning your shit, being able to sit in your shit and not be disturbed by it.”

Yoga on WetLand almost seems redundant. The practice and the place have a lot in common. They both emphasize the importance of breaking out of routine, becoming more self-sufficient and strong, balancing the individual and communal, aesthetic beauty and strength, wildness and urbanity. WetLand, as it floats, barely tethered to the pier, almost seems to be closing its eyes, trying to find its balance in an unstable world.

Yoga at WetLand runs twice more, on September 12 and 19, at 6:00 pm each night. Pay at the door, $20 per class.

–Abby Holtzman

Behind the Carousel: Q and A with Josh McIlvain on “SLIDESHOW”

Posted September 11th, 2014

SLIDESHOWFollowing two successful nights at Chris the Brit’s house, because obviously that’s where you kick off your Fringe Festival productions, Josh McIlvain, late of editing our Festival Guide, takes his SLIDESHOW on the road, stopping at Headlong Studios, WetLand, and Moving Arts of Mount Airy before he’s done. We caught up with him to talk about the show.

Tell me about the show. Justify your existence.
I’ve winnowed down 1,500 slides to 80 per tray, for five carousels. The goal was to make the story through pictures, along with writing a narrative that I tried not to tie too directly to the pictures. I figured out a story with the pictures, and then married them into the script. Then I whittled each carousel down so they’re like chapters. Once I did that, I could see where each chapter could end.

Where did these slides come from?
These slides I bought off eBay.

When my grandmother passed away several years ago and she left an attic full of camera equipment. Old film, Polaroid cameras, slide carousels. All this stuff was really nice, sturdy, well-made. I thought I was only person in family who would be interested in this stuff, and it would be fun to incorporate it in a show in some way. I found a booklet of slides in one of her closets, random vacation house on a lake—maybe from the 1950s, maybe the 1970s. I had no idea where the lake was, or knew anybody in the pictures, and they were kind of boring so I didn’t take them.

What was interesting to me was the disconnection I had from them. So I thought that if I can track these slides down again, I could create a show that’s a fictional account of those slides. Then I thought maybe those slides weren’t good enough, so I started acquiring large caches of other family slides.

These were slides that were in lots of anywhere from 100 to 1000 slides of people’s vacations. I don’t know where the hell they came from, maybe estate sales or something. A couple of them I had to pay like $30! I thought I was going to have to pay $2 for them. I’m using material from each group, but there’s one main one that’s the subject of the piece. I trace this one family from the 1950s through the 1980s. I actually portray somebody in the slides, their child, to tell the story of their lives and my life at the same time.

I didn’t do this on purpose, but it ended up being about that same disconnect I felt with my grandmother’s slides.

Why perform solo this time, and why so many venues?
I’ve wanted to create a solo show for a while so I could tour it, so I could have something where if I’m vacationing or traveling somewhere, I could do a couple shows there. And I wanted to do something different, and this is very mobile. There’s me, a slide projector, and a standalone screen. So it could be done anywhere, and I thought it would be good to take advantage of the Neighborhood Fringe idea. I definitely wanted to do a show out here [in Mount Airy], doing a show at my friend’s house, Arts Parlor, WetLand.

I think I’ll learn a lot from doing it at the Fringe. I knew from the beginning it would be a slide show, and that the audience was there, but not in a theater—we’d be all in the same room together. I knew I was basically in the center of the audience talking over these slides. The one big decision I made was to become a person in the slide show itself. Originally I was thinking of a conceit reconstructing the lives of those in the slides through journals and “research.” But I liked the idea of putting myself into the slides. And it just so happens somebody in the slides kind of looks like me. I like the idea of immediately making the audience buy into the illusion of it, like collapsing time, for them to know that the person who’s giving the slide show is not just a lecturer—he’s got other motivations going on than just showing people something. He’s a little wayward.

The cool thing about the slides is that they look so good. They’re crisp, their color is really lush. And it’s really voyeuristic; it’s weird to look at somewhat intimate pictures of people that never had any intention for this kind of use. There’s something interesting about intimate or social pictures of people from fifty, forty years ago, because it brings an immediacy to them that’s cool.

There’s the sense that my character’s kind of living in the past, or that the past is very much in the present, they’re both very much there. A lot of the actual piece—it’s basically a drama. There’s funny stuff in it, but what it is not is my making fun of the people in the slides. My character makes fun of his parents, people in the slides. But it’s definitely not me riffing off these funny people from the past.

What’s unique about the slide show?

There’s a very interesting thing to me about the aspirational aspect to the slide show. You’re gathering your neighbors, friends, family to your house and basically putting on a show. That’s what struck me about doing a theater piece–everything is already there, it’s a type of show. There’s something interesting in this idea that you show your successes to people, almost like you’re in a movie: showing real slides of yourself in a presentation about your real life that you want to share with your friends and your family. Exploring your kingdom in your format that invites you into this screen, like a movie that puts you in the picture.

What’s really different about this from Facebook or Instagram is the live event in the home. It’s nothing like a concert in the home; I don’t really know of anything that’s really similar to that. I was talking to somebody last night, and I think this basically existed from the late 50s through the mid-80s. The computer image stuff wasn’t really a thing until the mid-1990s or late 1990s. What killed it was video–the video camera took over the slide show. Instead of taking images for slides, they filmed everything on video.

It was the thrill, you could make your own TV–video cameras were a way to see yourself on television, and that was crazy. The slide show was harder to do, and probably more expensive in some ways.

SLIDESHOW September 12 and 13, 7:00 pm
Headlong Studios (formerly Arts Parlor)
1170 S. Broad Street

September 16, 8:00 pm
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
Columbus Boulevard at Dock Street
Pay what you can

September 19 and 20, 8:00 pm
Moving Arts of Mount Airy
6819 Greene Street (at Carpenter Lane)

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Artist Anna Ekros on WetLand

Posted September 10th, 2014

Fringe - WetLand Anna EkrosThe day that WetLand opened to the public (luckily, without a splash), Sweden-born artist Anna Ekros began her residency on the floating barge. Ekros’s handiwork is everywhere on WetLand, from the swirling greenery she painted in the greenhouse bathing room to the planters she designed and built.

Below, Ekros discusses how WetLand offers her a unique environment to thrive as a creator.

What about WetLand appeals to you as an artist?
I like the collaborative aspect [of the project] as well as the futuristic one, how we all come in with different knowledge and interests and are given the space to create this vision.

How do you think the unique living situation on WetLand will influence your art?
The space determines the mindset, WetLand becomes a frame as well as a platform that we expand off of together. Visual stimuli automatically changes the way the mind works: simple things like light and color as well as space, resources, and timeframe. I guess a small space, a limited amount of resources, and a tight timeframe will remind me that you don’t have to have much to create a lot.

What about living communally do you find meaningful and/or important?
Constantly having other people around is participating in an unconscious association chain.
It interrupts repetitive thought patterns and opens up space for new ones. For periods of time, it is important to work together in groups for that reason.

How do you anticipate balancing individual and collaborative work on WetLand?
WetLand can be seen as one big sculpture that we all build together, [so in that sense] there’s no real difference. It becomes a pause from the focus on individuality. But I also take time every day when I walk off to work on my own thing.

Having worked in multiple cities around the world, how do you think location and space influence your work?
Mostly the [primitivism] of the living situation affects me, [because] there’s less distraction. Also meeting a city in this way in combination with a large number of people opens you up. Workwise that results in a possibility to broaden.

What themes do you see emerging in your work? How do you see these interacting with the themes and values of WetLand?
The values become something internalized – you are a part of it just by the location you choose to spend your time in. I’m used to working with raw or recycled material but relying on it for floors and ceilings gives you a reality check. I think WetLand has deepened my understanding by experiencing the [interdependence] of imagination and creativity and manifesting these ideas into reality.

When did you know you were an artist?
I started resisting it when I was about 12, engaging in the process of the trade around 15, and accepting it when I was around 21.

Why are you an artist?
I haven’t found another way of being able to be curious.

August 15th to September 21st, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (ongoing)
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 South Columbus Blvd (at Dock St)

–Abby Holtzman

TODAY at 1:00 pm: Learn About Urban Beekeeping at WetLand

Posted September 7th, 2014

Alison Gillespie‘s passion for urban ecology is quite clear–her writing career focuses on how to marry nature and the city. For FringeArts, she’s stopping by WetLand today to discuss urban beekeeping, and to read from her most excellent book, Hives in the City: Keeping Honey Bees Alive in an Urban World.

HivesInTheCityHow did you become interested in beekeeping?
I am not a beekeeper myself. I’m a gardener who is passionate about making American backyards more friendly and hospitable to all kinds of wild animals and insects. I also write about ecology for a living. Like everyone else, I was horrified by the news of Colony Collapse Disorder and reports of the bees disappearing from our landscape. I was also aware that the honey bees would only be appearing in my backyard if there was a beekeeper living near my house. I kept wondering who that person was, and where in my urban area they were keeping their bees. I felt a huge sense of gratitude to that person, and felt as if I was connected to them in this really powerful way. Every time I saw bees in my backyard my heart was filled with great joy.

At the same time, I also began to realize that a lot of people in my life were becoming beekeepers, including stay-at-home parents, lawyers, construction guys – even my dental hyginist! Some of them had hives in really surprising locations in the city. I wanted to know what was motivating them, and I began conducting some interviews. The more I talked to this interesting and diverse group the more I realized the story of what was happening to the bees was as much about humans and our relationship with food, nature and our local ecosystem as it was about the insects.

Why do you specialize in urban ecology specifically? Why is it important to cultivate nature in city settings? In your own life, how do you balance city life and a passion for wildlife and nature?

I am a person who really loves the diversity and vibrancy of urban places. I hated growing up in the suburbs. They were boring as hell, and culturally stifling. They also seemed to be full of people who were determined to spray huge amounts of chemicals all over their yards, and the more I learned about the importance of giving butterflies, birds and bees an organic habitat, the more I hated living in places where the grass was unnaturally lush and green while the flowers were empty. I seemed to find a happy medium in older, urbanized places – those that were maybe still a bit rough around the edges, and maybe a bit less prosperous. I realized that the city was a much better place to live when I could find a neighborhood full of trees and near a park.

I do not think this is uncommon among those who think of the environmental big picture. It is wonderful to have a short commute via public transportation, to renovate and recycle old buildings and make them new, and avoid being a part of suburban sprawl. If you can have a small environmental footprint and consume less but still live with access to green space, you really can have a more balanced lifestyle. City neighborhoods near parks are always the ones everyone covets.

I set out to show others how to add green spaces to their lives – either by planting some things in containers on their tiny patios or by improving their small city lots. You won’t necessarily save an endangered species by gardening that way. But I think that we as humans are predisposed to need time outdoors interacting with nature on a daily basis. So maybe if we make cities more livable, people won’t be as apt to think they need to move farther out just to get that daily dose of “green goodness.” This could reduce energy consumption, decrease pollution by cars, and maybe even reduce sprawl. Improving our access to green space is a really key component of “smart growth.”

Plus, there’s something really cool about finding some ways that nature ultimately prevails over the concrete and the grime. To find a butterfly on a window box downtown or see a bird land on the girder of a bridge can make one feel a real sense of universal connection in an otherwise impersonal and dead landscape. Wouldn’t it be great to give everyone that experience while giving wildlife a bit more room to thrive, too?

What is the greatest obstacle to urban beekeeping right now? What are your suggestions to combat it?

In many cities, beekeeping became illegal in the 1980s, when fears about so-called “killer bees” were fueled by fictional and sensationalized movie plots. Here in the Mid-Atlantic overly aggressive strains of bee are not an issue and really never have been.

For more than three and half centuries – since colonists brought bees with them from Europe – cities like Philadelphia and New York have had thriving apiaries. In the beginning, honey bees were raised to provide a less expensive alternative to sugar and access to wax for candles. As humans’ knowledge of pollination increased, they were also valued for helping to increase the harvest in backyard gardens. This remained true even until World War II, when patriotic Americans turned their lawns into food plots. Then, after the war as the suburbs flourished and air pollution increased in the city, both gardens and bees began to disappear in our cities. In a lot of locations, people began to think of bees as pests instead of beneficial helpers. Legislation was sometimes put into place without anyone even knowing it had been done.

Now, as cities seek to end so-called “food deserts” – those places where people lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables – policy makers are encouraging the growing of food crops in urban locations. Anti-beekeeping laws are making it hard for beekeepers to set up hives where they might be most beneficial to gardeners.

Pesticide use is also a big issue for beekeepers everywhere, especially because the new class of systemic chemicals known as neonicotinoids (or “neonics”) which can have very long lasting impacts.

Combatting those problems is something everyone can help with by speaking out in favor of bees and avoiding pesticides. Avoiding plants –- even flowers — that have been treated with chemicals is also very important. It is also really helpful to purchase of organic produce whenever possible, despite its sometimes higher cost.

How do you think your book Hives in the City ties into the goals and values of WetLand?

I think the rising water levels associated with climate change will force us to reconcile lots of issues we currently ignore as a society. Where will we grow our food in urban areas that have become overwhelmed with constant flooding? If we decide to go vertical, as many urban planners have suggested we should, how will we provide pollination for those urban farm sky scrapers? It may come to pass that those who currently keep bees in locations such as on top of hotels and other high buildings in our downtown areas will have a lot of advice to impart. But also, it seems to me that WetLand is asking us to rethink our cities, and so are many urban beekeepers.

What do you hope to impart to the audience at your book reading on WetLand?

I hope to impart a sense of hope and a need for urgent action. Even those who live in cities are able to save bees and make space for all kinds of pollinators. Those pollinators play a huge role in the well-being of our ecosystem. The crisis of the bees is not happening in some distant farm field far away from here. It is happening on your plate, right in front of your face, and out the window of your urban apartment. It is unfurling in city parks and along the trees that line shopping centers malls and grocery stores. We need to all stand up for bees, NOW, and help those who are working to give them a chance to thrive. The struggle of the bees is a message for us. If we don’t heed that message we humans will soon struggle, too. We can no longer take the most basic aspects of our planet for granted. We need to pay attention and get our act together.

Alison Gillespie reads from her book at 1:00 pm at WetLand, Independence Seaport Museum Pier, 211 S. Columbus Blvd. Free!

WETLAND OPENS TONIGHT! Here’s Greg Lindquist on WetLand, Empathy, and Boat Cuisine

Posted August 15th, 2014

Greg Lindquist rappelling to fasten and paint the roof of WetLand. Photo: Mary Mattingly.

Greg Lindquist – artist, professor, and WetLand collaborator – is fashioning a harness out of rope. He secures himself in, ties the other end to a naked beam, and leans back, held firm by the same rope that is lashed around the dozens of hollow, blue drums keeping WetLand’s garden barges afloat on the Delaware River.

These gardens surround a central structure, a post-apocalyptic vision of a house succumbing to rising water, its windows tilted in deference to nature’s torrid, turgid comeuppance. WetLand, which will open to the public on August 15th as part of the 2014 FringeArts Festival, is a floating structure comprised of this crooked domicile and a mess of plants thriving around it, including the series of buoyant barges which support everything from sunflowers to tomatoes. The doomed house is built upon a reconfigured houseboat, which will soon also be home to solar panels, a water filtration system, a chicken coop for egg-laying hens, and a beehive. With these resources, WetLand’s main creator, artist Mary Mattingly, will live on-site, accompanied by a rotating cast of collaborators and artists-in-residence who will stow away at night in WetLand’s angular attic, under a dramatic slope of upcycled plywood.

It is this slope that Lindquist now clings to, drilling neat lines of screws into its surface. His homemade harness is holding him securely to the boat, albeit a boat sculpted intentionally to appear on the cusp of complete instability.

Lindquist’s connection to WetLand starts with his relationship with Mattingly, whose early photographic work he came across while working on his thesis at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Lindquist has long been interested in how landscapes can represent social, economic, and political issues, and he was accordingly drawn to Mattingly’s work, which imagines how water usage and flooding might impact land formation. Since then, the two have collaborated on a variety of projects, from a two-person exhibition in North Carolina that Lindquist organized to Mattingly’s Flock House project, in which he made a painting installation. Like WetLand, Flock House involved creating an aesthetically interesting public habitat that makes us rethink the shape of our everydays.

Although Lindquist identifies as more artist than activist, his paintings are always enmeshed in issues and themes that he cares about, worlds of ideas much larger than could ever be expressed. “The one thing that I know about the work I make is that it’s not simply a pretty painting. It has a contextual basis, it has a network of other issues and meanings and enactments of things.” he said. “These series of translations are important because I’m taking a lot of imagery and collating and collapsing it into a two-dimensional work.” This process of rendering is messy but necessary.

“I’ve always been a painter who has been interested in ideas outside of painting,” Lindquist said. He cites a critical reading group that he and Mattingly founded together with some writer and curator friends as one example of his work as an artist extending off the canvas, as something that has “pushed against the idea of painting as being this static, singular, discrete object, a painting on the wall. It’s about everything around it, too,” he said. Lindquist sees his writing, teaching, painting, and collaborating as completely intertwined. “[They] are all the same project, they just happen to not fit within the same frame,” he said. “No pun intended.”

Greg Lindquist, Duke Energy's Dan River II, oil on canvas, 78 by 68 in, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Greg Lindquist, Duke Energy’s Dan River II, oil on canvas, 78 by 68 in, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Some of Lindquist’s recent work has focused on an environmental disaster close to his childhood home in Wilmington, North Carolina – a coal ash spill in the northern part of the state that contaminated the Dan River and dredged up the governor’s affiliations with the perpetrator, Duke Energy. “My work dealt with [the question], ‘How do you visualize this in a pleasing, beautiful way that lured people into the issue and then allowed them to engage and be confronted by it in a way that works against the inherent beauty [of the piece]?” Lindquist said. One of his pieces, a 40-foot wide painting of “swirling vortices” of coal ash mixing with river water, embodies a particularly grotesque beauty which both attracts and repels.

Lindquist wants his work to elicit a complex aesthetic response, but also an empathic response. “I believe painting is very important to engaging people because it can put someone in the position where they imagine themselves not only as the viewer but as the person who made it,” he said. Painting can also allow an audience to see the work “as a living, breathing entity and object that can have a dialogue with you,” he said. This mutable ability for empathy can in fact be invoked by an aesthetic response. “I think beauty can increase sensitivity,” Lindquist said.

With a pressing issue like environmental disaster, an audience moved to sensitivity and engagement may be one step closer to taking action. Lindquist believes that only art can generate that kind of charged attention. “The difference between using beauty in… art and in activism is that activism has a main goal in sight and it’s about getting to that goal. I think that in doing that it mechanizes and commodifies the process,” he said. “Painting is a very slow burn, it’s a very open-ended process, so it also allows you to see the nuances of a situation and be able to constantly amend and revise your position on something, so it’s more organic and open ended.”

For Lindquist, developing empathy about important issues through his art is also deeply tied to building community. “I have no disillusionment about art changing the world or changing these issues. I don’t think that’s going to take great strides, but I think it will give a platform for people to talk about [these issues], to come together and have conversations,” he said. These conversations, however, cannot happen until communities are aware of the issues in the first place. Lindquist recalls travelling across North Carolina with Mattingly and giving talks at universities where few people knew the basic facts about the coal ash disaster happening in their own state. “I think raising awareness is the first step, but it’s not the end goal,” he said. “The end goal is to really build a discourse and then have people make the decisions themselves, to see the issue, to decide how they want to be inspired by it or what action they want to take.”

With his art, Lindquist hopes to provide a way for people to come together and make these decisions collaboratively. “Empathy is the way to bring people in and give them a safe space to think about [these issues],” he says. He is inspired by a number of community-oriented artists, including Doug Ashford, whose artist collective Group Material put together community-engaged exhibitions in the East Village of New York City. One featured donated household items from around the neighborhood, accompanied by their stories.

Panel Cooker for Boat Banquet, built by Tamsin Doherty, August, 2014. Photo: Tamsin Doherty.

Panel Cooker for Boat Banquet, built by Tamsin Doherty, August, 2014. Photo: Tamsin Doherty.

Lindquist has also learned a lot about community from Mattingly. “Something I’ve really learned from Mary and her work is that it involves many partnerships and collaborations and mutual learning exchanges,” he said. Lindquist is excited about his own role on WetLand, which involves a focus on developing the gardens and planning the Boat Banquet, which will take place on Saturday, August 16th and Sunday, August 17th and celebrate WetLand’s opening with mainly boat-grown food.

“There’s something interesting about making the work site specific in its endemic location, from the gardens, in the proximity of which they were taken,” he said. Lindquist will be cooking with a combination of solar cookers and induction cooktops running on solar power. The solar cookers “look like futuristic instruments from some of Mary’s earlier photographs so I find it interesting that it’s within a speculation about what the future looks like if we didn’t have resources,” he said.

Boat banquet prep practice cooking, sauce from WetLand garden: carmelized minced garlic, diced pepper, chopped tomatoes, pepper flakes, sweet pepper, and spinach, on gluten-free penne, and lemon wedge. Minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil spinach, baby kale side salad. Photo: Greg Lindquist.

Boat banquet prep practice cooking, sauce from WetLand garden: carmelized minced garlic, diced pepper, chopped tomatoes, pepper flakes, sweet pepper, and spinach, on gluten-free penne, and lemon wedge. Minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil spinach, baby kale side salad. Photo: Greg Lindquist.

The future may be murky but the table will be set on Friday with enough greenery to feed a horde of hammer-wielding artists. The food will be vegan and gluten-free. On the menu is everything from a lavender and orange salad with micro-greens to sorrel pesto to dinosaur kale, a vegetable whose moniker promises great things. “Eating is one of the few essential pleasures we have left,” Lindquist said. “Just like painting.”

– Abby Holtzman

Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 South Columbus Blvd (at Dock St)
Aug 15­–Sept 21, 10:00am–5:00pm (ongoing)
More information: http://www.wet-land.org/

A Watery, Sinking Future: Interview with Mary Mattingly, creator of WetLand

Posted July 31st, 2014
WetLand. Image by Mary Mattingly.

WetLand. Image by Mary Mattingly.

If you’ve ever wished you could live at the Fringe Festival, you should meet Mary Mattingly. The Presented Fringe artist will live on WetLand, a boat-based ecosystem moored on the Delaware River, for the entirety of the Festival. WetLand captures the uncertainties of city-based living in an age of global warming, and proposes a hopeful alternative. In addition to housing Mary and other artists, WetLand will also host concerts, workshops, skill shares, and a few performances by Neighborhood Fringe artists. WetLand will be free and open daily Aug 15–Sept 21.

FringeArts: Why is the title WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: I’m concerned about the slow erasure of wetlands around the world, as they are important ecosystems that breed aquatic and terrestrial life, protect the mainland from storms, and naturally clean the air and waterways. They are often drained for large building projects and result in areas that flood, destructing homes and infrastructure in a loss that is for some unrecoverable. The largest loss is ecosystem diversity, which has tremendous reverberating effects throughout the natural world, and in the end makes the planet a worse place for us all to live.

I wanted to bring more attention to the necessity of wetlands, and pair it with a sinking house to describe causation through a symbolic artwork. I was also thinking about the combination in a very literal way: wet and land, to describe a watery, sinking future.

FringeArts: What’s the process of creation in such a work?

Mary Mattingly: In this piece I began considering the natural zone between the river and urban space. In many cities, it’s a space that is either overlooked or that undergoes a process of quick development. It’s a place where we must consider nature, because we are so close to it and dependent on it. Reconnecting the water with a row house puts many of us in the place of the inhabitant.

I was spending a lot of time thinking about how we live in a social system that allows us an illusion of disconnect from nature. We expect our food to be in the grocery store, we are accustomed to clean water coming from the tap, but those are expectations most of the world doesn’t have, and they are things that we can’t always be dependent on. Marrying nature to the city directly describes these food, water, and energy systems we depend on.

FringeArts: How do habitat, water, and art connect for you?

Mary Mattingly: These things are all necessities for me, and I need one as much as the other. As artists we often work with our own needs, and sometimes those are universal. Water has always been a particular concern for me. I grew up in an area that continually flooded, and where the drinking water contained dangerously high levels of agricultural runoff, having long-term effects on the area. I watched bottled water become a popular commodity, and learned about Bechtel and the World Bank’s privatization of water in Bolivia, which was eventually reversed through long protests.

FringeArts: Why is it important to live on WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: Living on WetLand is an essential part of an experiment that needs to be played out in real time. Like a form of performance art, it’s an exploration through endurance, and we also keep the living systems running. It’s an act of creating an ecosystem from which three people will eat, drink, shower, work, sleep, learn, and share.

FringeArts: How do you see this relationship between the solitary artist and the need to construct a community?

Mary Mattingly: Like many people, I thrive on both solitude and solidarity. I believe we need to make more time and physical spaces to be together, to strengthen the ties we have found in the virtual space and regain those that have been lost because of those separations. We need to make a better world to live in, and when we are confined to inside spaces it’s easy to forget about the larger world around us, and how something we do here affects someone across the world.

FringeArts: Why the clearly human-made aesthetic of WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: It’s important for me to distinguish this work from doing something in a “back to land” context. Many times people leave cities because they want to be closer to land, and because they can. But many people cannot. Leaving the city in most cases is a luxury that allows for a different perspective. I want to have more chances for some of that perspective here in our cities, and bringing nature and natural living systems to a city’s periphery is a way I’ve thought to do that.

Living in a city is such an asset. There are always people around we can turn to, learn from, and work with. I believe that our urban centers will need to be the future sites that produce our daily necessities (especially food, energy, and water) and we need to strengthen citywide projects that focus on that production, on small scales with our neighbors, and on larger scales with our entire city. When we are solely dependent on a large supply chains for our daily needs, then we are beholden to it and it’s virtually impossible to see the larger picture of how these systems exploit the environment and human labor.

Thank you, Mary.

WetLand event information available here. Events are free, but may require an RSVP. Tickets and more information about Fringe Festival shows here.

Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 S Columbus Boulevard (at Dock Street)
Aug 15–Sept 21, ongoing daily 10am–5pm

WetLand crosses the Delaware

Posted July 22nd, 2014

Photo by Josh McIlvain IMG_3818
July 22, 2014, in the morning: The main structural component of WetLand by Mary Mattingly, a houseboat, turns towards its destination–the dock at the Independence Seaport Museum–as it is towed into the harbor. Commissioned for the 2014 Fringe Festival, WetLand will be open August 15 to September 21, daily, and is free to the public.

Data of the Everyday: Interview with Brian House, WetLand resident artist

Posted July 15th, 2014

“As painful as it sometimes is, I think waking up is the most beautiful part—those few moments where everything is a little unfamiliar.”

Brian House. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Brian House. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Starting on August 15th, Mary Mattingly‘s WetLand, a floating, self-sustaining ecosystem on the Delaware River, will open to the public as part of the 2014 Fringe Festival. WetLand will include living and performance spaces, gardens, a water filtration system, and potentially a beehive and chickens. In addition to hosting dozens of artistic and environmental events, WetLand will be home to a rotating cast of resident artists who will work and live on the barge.

One of these residents, Brian House, is a media artist who manipulates data to look deeply at our unique patterns of living. His recent projects include Forty-Eight to Sixteen, in which the logistics of a bike ride are transformed into music, and Tanglr, a Google Chrome extension that virtually connects two anonymous browsers. House currently teaches at the Digital + Media program at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Below, he discusses his plans for his residency and how WetLand‘s ethos will interact with his own.

FringeArts: What do you plan to work on during your residency at WetLand?

Brian House: I’m not entirely sure at this point, but it will likely involve music composition. Mary’s previous project, Flock House, inspired me to make some sensors for her structures that measured the rhythms of activity inside. I’m interested in perhaps doing something similar, but this time through purely low-tech methods of observation, and I think that could feed in to the composition process. When I say ‘rhythms’ it could really be anything—the daily life cycles of the inhabitants, the weather, visitors, city noise, etc.

FringeArts: Has the tension between public and private space has been a subject of your work in the past?

Brian House: Yes, definitely this has come up with many of my projects. These terms sound simple at first, but are actually very difficult to pin down. What constitutes a ‘public’? What are the boundaries of the ‘private’? In a world where it’s not unreasonable to expect Google satellites to look into your backyard, seeds and DNA are patentable, and we walk down the street immersed in our own cellphone worlds, these things are shifty, and I’d almost rather avoid definitions. In the past, I’ve used text messaging to change the context of your surroundings (Hundekopf), built simple appliances that eavesdrop (Conversnitch), and made secure platforms for sharing data (OpenPaths). As far as living in ‘public’ space, as on WetLand, however, that is new territory. 

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Thanks KnightArts! Winners of the Philadelphia KnightArts Challenge are Announced!

Posted April 30th, 2013
Nick at Knight, accepting award at gala. Photo by Susan Beard.

Nick at Knight, accepting award at gala. Photo by Susan Beard.

The Knight Foundation announced 43 winners of the third and final year of the foundation’s three-year arts challenge. And FringeArts is one of the winners! The award will help  FringeArts “commission artist Mary Mattingly to ignite imaginations about a sustainable future by creating a large and visually stunning utopic floating structure called WetLand. A participatory art project, WetLand will be a water-based ecosystem replete with solar panels, gardens and housing, erected on a floating barge docked along the Delaware River. Creating an island-like environment, WetLand will be an educational space that visitors can board and explore, stirring thoughts about water usage and the environment.”

Also included in the winners is our own Theresa Rose, the FringeArts visual arts program director, who is also an artist and arts organizer. Her project: “To create connections between neighborhood restaurateurs and artistic will produce cutting-edge art and food projects that respond to growing trends in contemporary art and emerging food culture. The project will commission internationally renowned artists to develop site-specific and content-relevant local food projects. Participating restaurants will be predominantly family run and reflect the neighborhood’s demographics. During the spring of 2015, each artist will present their project that may include artist-designed dinner events, menu additions and other collaborations with the restaurants.”

Read the whole list here, as the Knight Foundation gave support to an impressive array of organization and artists across the city, in very refreshingly un-Vannevar Bush fashion. There are a number of pop-up performance projects so expect art to be happening in unexpected places, a number of get the audience doing the art, and community building through art. Lots of cool stuff!