The limited space inside of Flock Houses and Wearable Homes confined their users to only the most necessary objects, while every object that was brought onto the Waterpod stayed there and became either compost or a repurposed building element. Recently, I have been exploring human and environmental ramifications in the production and distribution pathways of the objects that I carry. Beginning by researching each object I surround myself with in terms of its production, I ask: Who and what was affected during production and distribution, and how am I implicated in the potential damages? How do the objects I own mediate my life and how can they control my daily routine? Critic and historian Jennifer González has written about autotopographies in part to explain the relationship between things and a person’s subjectivity. I anticipate reaching a multifaceted understanding about the social agency an object carries and thereby confronting the idea and reality of exponential growth.
Notes on Allan Sekula
McLuhan liked to be known as someone who probed, never took a position but rather always learned and discerned, just continued to probe and respond. I think of Sekula in this way too, he continually probed deeper into his subject to tell a complex story.
Ninety percent of goods are still moved by sea. The sea makes physical a near global exchange that the Internet makes virtual. Sekula describes a network of ports through different communications devices including text, photography, and video. He documents the sea, focusing on “objects of globalization” such as cargo containers: everywhere, mobile and anonymous: ‘coffins of remote labor-power’ carrying goods manufactured by invisible workers who labor all around and far away. And then there is the sea and revolution – from mutiny to unions to the other side of the spectrum of deregulation, and the maritime industry’s role in distribution of commodities worldwide.
I’ve been responding to networks in a different way, working on projects that (while they are material and based in storytelling) are built to supplement and augment existing local and non-geographic networks. I’ve been working in zones on the periphery of the water and land. These zones have potential to bring together a site and community, they can bring people to nature on the edge of the city and bring the interdependency between the natural and the urban to the forefront.
Notes on Site Specificity and the Triple Island series:
Triple Island was the second in a series of works about living in public space, theater (real time and live) about economic, political, and climactic migration. Like a musical composition there are three movements. From the Flock House Project, we migrated one of the Flock Houses to Triple Island. Triple Island will then move to WetLand with a boat made from the remnants and carrying the useable supplies.
What does a nomadic site mean? The land a nomadic site in itself, the pier’s use changed from a working pier where trade and exchange took place, to a dumping ground, to a city owned park and experiment in co-ownership. In this case, it brings up the watery supply chain that references “flags of convenience” and the mobility of goods vs. people (back to Deleuze and Guattari’s Nomadology, and access to mobility versus forced mobility).
Site is composed of not only a distinct geographic location but also a networkof social relations, of political and ethical dimensions. It represents an accumulated and continually interpreted past, present, and future. Spatially, shifting entities interact with a site both through integrating and standing apart. Site is active with energy, agency, and political undertone.
Site as geography: As a location, site comprises a combination of physical, experiential, and social elements. Geographically, it’s a myth to draw distinction between a natural and human-made site, as visible and invisible networks that influence a place need to be accounted for to comprehensively understand a location. From landowners to corporate resource extraction and zoning decisions, a site is determined through multiple stakeholders and histories. Complex institutional, political, and social frameworks constitute it.
Site as virtual: Site is configured through patterns of information, data collection, human and nonhuman contributors, and server space. A virtual site requires physical hardware to access it. This hardware is mined, produced, and stored in various locations that become its equivalent physical network to a virtual location.
Site as proposal: A site is mythologized, theoretical, and circumscribed. With embedded histories, it can propose a number of things. For instance, it can re-propose a commons, and then a more horizontal power structure through cooperation, communing, care, and mutual consideration. Simultaneously, it can propose a space where displacement and alienation create potential for being in between. Alterity and multiplicity can continually propose revised frameworks. Site as a place is both learned through resistance and acted upon.
Center versus periphery: If the colonizing engine that seeks to subjugate, conquer, and collect everything of speculated value has caused center and periphery to coalesce into the condition of site as described here, it is near impossible to draw distinction between “center” or “periphery” (or Nonsite/Site) in physical space. Perhaps today periphery is only information-based. This periphery consists of repressed or hidden facts about what happens in or on a site, insulated from peoples’ fields of knowledge and aided by fragmentation.
Artwork as actor: An artwork contains both its site of annunciation and its site of dissemination. Art commonly carries the burden of a museum or exhibition space (an expected site for artwork), and can impose an austere zone on a site that in some cases can reframe it. While an artist or group of artists may or may not have firsthand knowledge of a site they interact with or act upon, what might the benefits be of importing new perspective to a site, and how may brief encounters become residual?
Do objects come with responsibility? In this film, Mary Mattingly transforms personal belongings into sculptural forms that she later incorporates into photographs and performative actions. Experimenting with living in her Greenpoint studio space, Mattingly is determined to live with just the bare essentials. Over several months, she undertakes a process of recording every object she owns and tracing the history of each of her belongings—how it came into her life, its distribution via complex global supply chains, as well as where the raw materials for its manufacture was sourced—before uploading a digital version of each object to her website OWN-IT.US for others to access. Throughout this process, she takes stock of the environmental and societal impact of her personal consumption, wondering if “maybe we need art more today because we’re in a world with so many mass produced things.” Mattingly aggregates all of her personal belongings into boulder-like sculptural bundles, held together with rope, so that she is able to roll and drag them. She’s photographed walking the sculpture Fill (Obstruct) (2013) across the Bayonne Bridge, from Staten Island to New Jersey, and to the Port of New York New Jersey—symbolically returning her personal belongings to the place where they entered the East Coast. “It’s kind of really incredibly Sisyphean in a way,” says Mattingly about her actions, eventually attracting the attention of the Port Authority Police and Homeland Security who surveil the port. Also featuring the works Kart (2008); Floating a Boulder (2012); Pile-High (2012); The Furies (Titian, again) (2013); The Damned (Titian, again) (2013); and Life of Objects (2013).
OWN-IT.US (A work in progress)
Uploading a decade of objects a day.
I began this archive in order to part with each object. Researching each item’s history is a way to begin an extended funeral prayer, illuminating rituals and tragedies embedded in objects in a precarious world. From the over-extraction of the earth, to the working conditions of the makers and distributors, to the chemicals that enter the air and water affecting everyone, each object is embedded with trauma. After the item is archived I add it to a bundle. The courses of these bundles continue to be traced as they now face their own circulation.
Every technology comes with its own accident – Paul Virillo