This week More Art launches a Year of Public Water, a project by artist Mary Mattingly that examines the complex history of NYC’s drinking watershed, bringing attention to the often unseen labor that people, along with our broader ecological community, undertake to care for our water. As the U.S. experiences a heightened health, economic, environmental, and water poverty crisis, millions of people face obstacles to access safe, clean running water daily. Agricultural runoff, byproducts of disinfection agents, as well as aging infrastructure like lead pipes have contaminated drinking water, especially in BIPOC and low-income communities. Addressing environmental, health, and economic conditions in and around New York City’s watershed and public water system is a vital precondition for the creation of a more just present and future for upstream and downstream New Yorkers.
A Year of Public Water is an invitation to examine our relationship to water in order to co-build more equitable partnerships between downstream water-receiving communities and upstream water-source communities. Join us each week for a new release of content including research, guest interviews, and calls to action.
More Art stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We stand with protesters demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many lives lost to racist violence and systemic oppression. We stand with those grieving the profound loss of life that has disproportionately impacted BlPOC communities during this pandemic. We stand with the activists, artists, and BIPOC communities who fight for a more just society.
We all have a role to play in dismantling white supremacy, fighting for equity, honoring the past, and realizing a better future.
This past Earth Day was slated to mark the opening of Mary Mattingly’s Public Water project at Prospect Park. While the project is currently on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are using this time to reflect upon environmental stewardship and commons. Below Mattingly reflects on Public Water from quarantine, where she’s washing her clothes in the sink, and in the next couple of weeks, we will launch a year-long social media campaign titled “A year of (Public) Water,” and a dedicated website.
In the face of ever-shrinking shared common space, Public Water was instigated by the need to strengthen commons together. It was important to align with Earth Day to acknowledge the interdependencies that make up our intertwined lives as humans: it goes without saying that we are, of course, part of and dependent on earth.
Due to heavy use of agricultural chemicals, I grew up without clean drinking water not far from New York City. Therefore, learning about the New York City drinking watershed came with the territory when I moved to Brooklyn in 2001. As a New York City resident, I’m dependent on New Yorkers who live within and protect the drinking watershed for city residents. They are life partners with me and over eight million people, but that relationship has to be more equitable.
The history of New York City’s drinking watershed is messy and cruel, coming at enormous expenses to those in what is now considered watershed territory. But these histories are always still in the making. With New York on pause we celebrated Earth Day from our homes. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of recognizing the people behind the services we take for granted, including utilities. During this time, I’m asking New York City residents to forge deeper relationships between those who care for one of our most basic needs. How can NYC residents appreciate the rarely-seen labor NYS residents (and nonhumans) do? The NYC drinking watershed is considered one of the best water systems in the world. From a policy perspective it has become more equitable over time, but there’s still more work to do. How can New York City residents strengthen these relationships, and therefore our shared commons, together?
In response to the current global pandemic and nationwide shutdown, Trans Boxing has adapted their work in exploratory ways. In addition to moving their weekly classes to a virtual platform, Engaging Artists Resident Nola Hanson is developing an offshoot project, titled Trans Boxing Conceptual Exercises. The project invites participants to follow instructions and submit documentation of completed exercises which formalize the rituals of boxing training. The parameters of the work re-claim the day-to-experiences of the boxer and position them as conceptual artworks in and of themselves.
Sample Exercises + Instructions:
1. Make a Motion Study.
Make a video of yourself (10-20 seconds or so) throwing the following combination: 1-1-2-3-2-3. (1=jab, 2=cross, 3=hook). The video does not have to include your face, or even your hands, but some part of your body should be included in the shot. Collect 2-6 stills from the video that you find compelling, or interesting. Arrange them in any sequence you’d like.
2. Take a Picture of the Inside of Your Glove.
Take picture of the inside of your glove. The shot should only include the interior of the glove, and should not reveal any other objects or body parts.
3.Take an Epsom Salt Bath.
After a workout, take a bath with Epsom salt. If you have a fan in your bathroom, turn it off so that the room can fill with steam. The bathwater should be hot. As the tub is filling up, pour in 4-5 pounds of Epsom salt. Run your hand through the water to break up any clumps and to make sure the salt has fully dissolved. After you’re done with your bath, and before your drain the tub, take a photograph.
IMAGE: Take a Picture of the Inside of Your Glove, Liv Adler, Brooklyn, NY.
Ed Giardina and Devon Tsuno along with their student artists from Cypress College Art Department and CSU Dominguez Hills PRAXIS art engagement program + DHAC student art club are voluntarily working together (remotely) to construct, assemble, and distribute face shields to communities in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These southern California communities include healthcare and essential workers, such as hospitals and clinics, senior communities, grocery and delivery workers, public-transportation riders, and other under-funded non-profits. Their efforts have been funded by donations made by people across the globe via social media.
This is a flexible, temporary coalition of volunteers that will try and be responsive to the changing conditions of this pandemic. Selected participants have committed to using provided equipment and materials to only print PPE (personal protection equipment) for a minimum of 1-3 months, 8-12 hours per day, and 7 days a week to produce the maximum amount of PPE possible. PPE must only be donated FREE of charge through regional 3D PPE networks or to any groups or individuals who are healthcare or essential workers at risk. Participants do not accept payment or gifts for PPE.
All participants believe it is vital in this operation to maintain the utmost safety, working from home, following recommended guidelines from healthcare and science experts and not engage in direct contact with people. We believe in being safe as the number one priority. Upon completion of the project, all remaining printers and supplies will be kept by participants as a small token of gratitude for their service for creative purposes, and future efforts of good.
On May 15, 2020 at 6:30pm EST More Art’s Engaging Artists fellows will participate in a workshop via zoom with Ed Giardina and Devon Tsuno. The event is open to current and alumni Engaging Artists Fellows. If you are an EA fellow and would like to attend, please email email@example.com
Ed Giardina is an interdisciplinary artist and educator who lives and works in the Los Angeles area. His research interests include socially engaged art, old and new media, and design. He teaches full time at Cypress College. He is also a founding member of Finishing School. Established in 2001, Finishing School is a socially engaged artist collective that playfully explores an expansive range of subject and media territories at the many intersections of art, play, power, politics, praxis, participation, and the everyday. The collective has five members who represent a broad range of skills and research interests. Finishing School produces interdisciplinary actions, installations, workshops, design, publications, film, studio art, performance and new media.
Devon Tsuno: Los Angeles is always described as a city of sprawl. But it is also a massively layered city, growing amidst social stratification and an unsound ecology — people battling for space and an array of international horticulture left as evidence. Neighborhoods are populated, vacated and then repopulated. Communities united and communities restructured. Working with spray paint and acrylic on handmade Japanese, Dutch and Indian papers, my most recent series of paintings focuses on the Los Angeles landscape’s non-native plants and bodies of water. These abstractions of densely layered water and plants are re-imagined from photographs taken on cycling, fly fishing and commuting sojourns on the streets of Los Angeles along the San Gabriel River, Ballona Creek, Los Angeles River, and the Mid-Wilshire area of the city. These paintings document the light, color, community, history and visual confrontations of pictorial and abstract space using color theory and hard edge abstraction analogous to the diversity of my neighbors.
Most recent experimentation has resulted in a series of prints created with a Risograph, a 1990s-era printing system using technology similar to fax machines, screen printing and designed for high-volume photocopying and printing. I am re-purposing this machine to create a series of artist’s books and prints in collaboration other artists, schools and community members. These prints and books are being distributed in the tens of thousands in the greater Los Angeles area to document the Los Angeles watershed and tributaries.
My practice recalls a city organism composed of intense color and beautifully controlled concrete with space and light well integrated, but often interdicted by violently unexpected layers of vegetation and water. These modes of observation, process, recollection, and criticism, dictate how I choose to work. It is living in the world of Los Angeles that interests me.
It is in a time like this that we become even more aware of the great vulnerability of arts organizations and artists in a country like the United States—and of just how much this precarity is linked to public health and access to vital resources. As a public art organization with a mission of service, we see this as an essential moment to continue to champion the things art does best: heal, inform, connect, re/present, and fill in the gaps where institutions fail us. We are in the process of gathering resources and making contingency plans for how best we can not only serve our immediate community, but the public to whom we’ve always strived to make more art available.
As the guidelines for addressing the spread of COVID-19 continue to evolve, so too do our response and strategy as an organization. We’re currently working to assess the best ways to continue to support our community of artists, residents, fellows, and extended network, as well as to reconsider our anticipated calendar for public projects.
Our 2020 public art projects by Mary Mattingly and Krzysztof Wodiczko each shed light onto the very systemic fallacies and misrepresentations that we have watched at play in the initial botched response to the novel coronavirus pandemic by the US government. Unfortunately, however, it is necessary for us to announce that all planned April dates for the opening and associated programs for Mattingly’s Public Water as well as any other public-facing programs or events, are on hold until further notice. Pre-production of Wodiczko’s project has also been delayed.
We remain committed to all our programs for 2020, but at this time we are unable to offer alternative dates given the number of factors involved in creating the work and in safeguarding everybody’s health. As the situation becomes clearer, we will share the new calendar of events, and look forward to seeing you in person. In the meantime, we are exploring virtual programming around these works, through More Art directly and through our community partners, and will keep you posted on that as well.
Activities for our Engaging Artists fellowship and residency program have moved online, where our staff is holding both planned and additional weekly sessions, providing both the intended tools for long-term support and more immediate resources and strategies in this time of uncertainty and precariousness. If anything, there has been a renewed vigor in the building of our EA community, where we are working closely with each other to build solidarity and possibility, seeking ways to serve and connect both to one another and to our extended networks.
Also: as a good place to start for COVID-19 if you’re looking for resources for artists and arts organizations, we recommend this incredible crowd-sourced list started by Common Field. Please add information you may know to the document, and/or consider sending resources you know of our way, to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll continue sharing them through our networks.
Sending you hope, possibility, and health in this challenging time. In solidarity, the Team at More Art