With fifteen close collaborators from diverse sectors of business, government, sciences, and art, including engineers Rik van Hemmen and Lonny Grafman, artist/activist John McGarvey, film maker Ian Daniel, artists Mira and Derek Hunter, Carissa Carman, Eve K. Tremblay, Gabe Krause, Alison Ward, and others, I launched the Waterpod in 2009. It was a public space, habitat, and living system on a barge that circumnavigated and docked in all of New York’s five boroughs. The Waterpod contained a functional ecosystem providing food, energy, and clean water to inhabitants and guests through regenerating gardens, chickens for eggs, rainwater purification, greywater cycling, and solar and human- powered electrical energy. All food, water, and human waste was cycled through the on-board living systems into renewed soil and water, and the building materials used to build the structures were sourced from New York’s waste stream. One of the project’s main areas of inquiry was to explore how possible it would be to subsist off of the food we grew, including eggs from four chickens, solar and bicycle power, and purified rainwater. All of the building materials were found or exchanged through a barter economy arranged with businesses and municipal agencies in NYC. I wanted to ascertain how much time we spent maintaining these systems versus time spent working our day jobs to purchase these supplies outright. After an initial significant investment of our own labor, we ended up with a system that supplied us with all of our basic needs for close to 2.5 hours of upkeep a day. The Waterpod represented a proposal for a potential future in New York, with more people contending with rising sea levels and less useable and/or affordable land. Simultaneously, I hoped that the space could describe some of the ways people the world over are already living, to illustrate our interconnectedness. Link: The Waterpod Project
In 2012 I embarked on the Flock House project with architect Rob Wall: a group of three spherical public spaces that migrated around New York City and from there have moved to Omaha, Nebraska. A significant difference was that the Flock House living systems could not fully support a family or even one person. While the Waterpod’s structure was created cooperatively through a barter economy, in the Flock Houses we established barter and trade systems with our neighbors at each site to meet our most basic food, energy, and water needs. Flock House inhabitants used the space as a platform for their own projects as well, creating exhibitions and testing experimental technologies, recording oral histories or using the Houses as community spaces in other ways. In 2013, I built Triple Island from leftover materials from the Waterpod and Flock House Projects. Triple Island was an amphibious building made of scalable units built on a pier in Lower Manhattan. It came to life through inhabitants who lived and worked in the space. Links: flock house project NY and current: flock house project Omaha
Through the exchanges embedded in the process of bringing WetLand and these other projects to fruition, I have come to a greater understanding of the importance of sharing with and learning from one another. On numerous occasions, when I’ve thought I’ve known the best way to approach a question, I’ve been shown a better way by complete strangers. This has been one of the biggest benefits of a working public space that combines habitation with cooperation. Art to me is as necessary as the basic human needs described above. Food, water, tools -their visible and invisible networks embody some of my deepest concerns and most far-reaching aspirations.
From homes to objects, from land to water, waste, debt, and each of us, today in the U.S. everything is a commodity. Together, can we reimagine public space even as the comprehensive privatization of public goods jeopardizes the concept of common space? By working to build more robust networks that work interdependently with one another, we can steward common spaces and begin to provide for each others’ basic needs.
Saturday, September 13th, at 12pm: Phickle: Demo Fermentation Class.
For millennia (that’s right!) humans have pickled vegetables using only the microbes that live in the soil and on the surface of those vegetables. Want to learn how to harness the power of bacteria to make nearly any vegetable into a truly healthful, probiotic living pickle with no hot stove required? Join Amanda Feifer, author of fermentation blog Phickle and the upcoming vegetable fermentation cookbook (Fair Winds Press 2015), as she helps you learn to love your bacteria and eat them too. You don’t need heat or vinegar, but a love for things that taste amazing is required!
September 7: From 1-2pm, Alison Gillespie, author of Hives in the City will do a reading of her acclaimed book on urban beekeeping, followed by a Q&A.
WetLand Opens! Stop by for some snacks from the gardens and Door to Door Organics, from 5-7pm.
Boat Banquet (for Alternative Energies)
When: Part I, Sat, August 16, 6-9 pm; Part II, Sun, August 17, 6-9 pm
Description: Artist Greg Lindquist, with Mary Mattingly, will host a dinner informed by research exploring sustainable alternative cooking energies and gathered largely from the WetLands garden. The meal will include summer cocktails made from infused herbs from the WetLands garden and locally sourced ingredients.
RSVP: Space Limited