What is my work about?
The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT is a socially engaged, bio-art project that I founded (2012) which seeks an ecological transformation of English Kills, a tributary of Newtown Creek in Brooklyn. I reside 4 blocks from this waterway in Bushwick. I collaborate with the biologist Dr. Sarah Durand, the Newtown Creek Alliance and engage with neighborhood residents to create awareness about the conditions and nature of English Kills and its Superfund status (declared in 2009). The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT is about re-imagining a public commons, bio-remediation processes to clean the creek water and environmental justice in a poor neighborhood of color.
In 2012 I founded the ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT, a socially engaged, bio-art project that seeks an ecological transformation of English Kills, a tributary of Newtown Creek in Brooklyn. This entire waterway was declared a Superfund site in 2009 and I currently reside 4 blocks from the creek in Bushwick. I collaborate with the biologist Dr. Sarah Durand, the Newtown Creek Alliance and engage with neighborhood residents to bring greater awareness about nature in an urban environment and its Superfund status. The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT is about re-imagining a public commons, alternative bio-remediation processes to clean the water of the creek, creating a new consciousness about our inter-relationship with this nature and environmental justice in a poor neighborhood of color. It is a project whose re-imaginations migrate between the science lab, the artist studio, nature and the public commons. The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT creates an art practice framework where biology, science and public planning can intersect with art making, performance, lectures, creative speculation and social engagement with a sense of mission that art can have impact on society.
The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT has a number of visual iterations that can exist within the confines of the gallery walls and exhibitions spaces. The artwork can take the form of installations with videos, Google maps, live biology, microscopy, performance, info-graphics and recorded interviews. Some of the first installations were facsimiles of speculations about man-made wetlands fabricated from recycled tires and spartina (salt marsh grass). Tire gabions are stacked tires, bolted together, with perforations carved from its sides and filled with clean soil and planted saltmarsh. The gabions act as filters for cleaning the creek water. I created several in different galleries by inserting video monitors behind the tires perforations and placing a planter of spartina in the middle of the gabion. To symbolize its connection to English Kills, an aerial map of the site snakes from the floor, under the gabion and up the adjacent wall. Monitors installed along the map display videos of the pollution conditions of English Kills and reveal the nature and animals that live there. These installations were speculations that unfold in the gallery environment. (slides 01, 02; video 5. Testimonies)
My first collaborations with Dr. Durand produced a visualization of the data she collected about the water quality of Newtown Creek. I created a “rebus” composed of videos monitors to symbolize her scientific findings. Info-graphics, photos of the site and mock-ups with text are useful devices in order to visualize the dense technical language and laboratory statistics. If reducing complicated information to simple formulas is a methodology of mathematics, then images and symbols used in art can help translate impenetrable science jargon to the visually conceivable. (slide 03)
Other aspects of the installations incorporated live animals captured from English Kills. Aquariums with the banded killifish, ribbed mussels and shrimp have become a recurring feature in recent exhibitions. Animals and the microscopic life of water samples from English Kills have also taken a starring role in videos screenings and film festivals. This provides for a magical experience to observe magnified water-life on a big screen that is otherwise obscured, hidden or impossible to see with the naked eye. Again, I bring the life that exists in English Kills to a space where the art viewer can realize their inter-relationship with nature, which for some, is a first time experience in a gallery setting. (slides 04, 05; video 1. Os Piscis and video 2. Into English Kills)
Toxic Talismans are bio-forms sculpted from the actual soil of English Kills. The soil contains the residue of the historic pollution, street run-off, our human waste (entercocous) and daily refuse. The Toxic Talismans are symbolic forms with allusions ranging from mythology to the animal life of English Kills. They become redemptive figures representing renewal, transformation and restoration. Several exhibitions included this series of glass-encased sculptures and one Talisman features as an animated figure in a public service announcement I created who discusses the affect humans have on the creek. The talisman asks for a change in our habits and demands, “Don’t flush when it rains!” (slides 06, 07; video 3. A Public Service Announcement from Edward the Egret)
During the 2013 and ’14 Bushwick Open Studios I have installed site specific videos at my local laundromat, that speak to our inter-dependent relationship with water and English Kills. In the videos I employ the circular window of the washing machine as a frame or aperture to focus on the habitats of the creek and to our human behavior. These videos contextualize for the viewer a set of conditions about water and the waterway. I imply questions about water that ask; Where do we get it? Where does it come from? Where does it go? What do we use it for? Where does it flow towards after a storm event? The videos also expose how our neighborhood sewage systems carry our storm water, street run-off and personal human waste from toilets and sinks to English Kills even during minor rain events. If we flush our toilet during a rain-storm it over taxes the capacity of our sewer drains and it pours into creek. (slides 08-10; video 4. English Kills @ Chico’s Laundromat)
The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT also engages with the community of East Williamsburg and Bushwick through a series of social events, workshops and DIY planning sessions that I initiated. I ask “What Do You Want to See In English Kills?” to inquire how neighbors, locals residents and artists can re-imagine English Kills and Newtown Creek and role play as environmental designers. The workshops ask, “How would you design inter-tidal zone wetlands? What shape would you create islands of mussels in English Kills? Can you design an open space on an empty parking lot at the base of English Kills? How can we establish the only public access point to this public waterway?” Participants must consider principles of bio-remediation when drafting their individual submissions. The point of this social exercise is for residents and citizens to develop a determining voice and sense of agency in dealing with the problems of this waterway. Issues of an inter-relationship with nature and water, the privatization of a public commons, the health of the communities and environmental justice arise when people have a chance to discuss and see the problems from themselves. It may move them to action. (slides 11-14)
Central to the mission of the ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT is the restoration, revitalization and remediation of this Superfund site waterway. New methods for bio-remediation, green technology and ecological restoration of new wetland habitats for the current wildlife are explored and tested. One such experiment is introducing viable, living inter tidal zones along the bulkheaded walls of Newtown Creek. The ancient wetlands of Newtown Creek have been paved over through time. New man-made wetlands can filter and clean the water while providing new habitats for marine and endangered avian species. I adopted the practices of Dr. Durand’s field tests in the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek where she installed fabricated habitats of clean soil, native saltmarsh and ribbed mussels along bulkheads. The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT borrowed her idea to install the first such man-made habitat in the English Kills basin to test the viability in its specific conditions. The habitat is made from non-leaching plastic frames supporting a perforated container with 8 saplings of spartina grasses and 15 ribbed mussels. It is then secured to the dilapidated supports of an old swing bridge in English Kills at a depth that exists within the tidal zones. Data collected by Dr. Durand’s lab and myself demonstrate how the quality and clarity of the creek water improved dramatically when native, filter-feeding bivalves (ribbed mussels) are introduced to this murky and brackish water. I conducted live demonstrations during the recent Bushwick Open Studios, with two identical English Kills water samples. One sample was without mussels and the other contained 2 submerged mussels. The tests revealed the difference in water clarity after only two hours. (slides 14-17; video 5. Testimonies and video 6. Installing the First Mussel Habitat in English Kills)
The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT’s experimentations traverse between the artist studio, the science lab, the public commons and nature. Its aesthetics are a multi-varied semiotics of video, installations, performance, lectures, biological experiments and DIY public planning. My art project proposes an art practice framework where biology, science and public policy intersect with art making, creative speculation and social engagement. (slides 18, 19)
The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT seeks impact on a historically polluted, yet reviving waterway through bio-remediation. I engage and work in partnership with biologists, neighborhood organizations and with the residents that live around English Kills and Newtown Creek to activate a consciousness about this nature to address longstanding issues of environmental justice. The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT reflects the values and aesthetic vision of the artist who initiated it. (slide 20)
2014 M.F.A. Fine Arts, MFA Art Practice, School of Visual Arts
2000 M.A. Political Science-International Relations. Rutgers University of NJ.
1991 B.F.A. Painting-Art History. University of Houston.
EXHIBITION RECORD * Solo Exhibition ** Curated Exhibition
“WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE IN ENGLISH KILLS?”, Kings County Saloon, Brooklyn, NY.
PRESENTING THE ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT, Bushwick Open Studios (site specific), Brooklyn, NY.
The ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT: MFA Thesis show, Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY *
WHERE IS THE ART IN BIO ART, SVA Flatiron Gallery, NY, NY.
GREENPOINT FILM FESTIVAL, Woven Spaces, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY
ENGLISH KILLS, Chico’s Laundromat (site specific) Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY
AQUA-CULTURE, McKinney Avenue Art Center, Dallas, Texas **
GREENPOINT FILM FESTIVAL, Woven Spaces, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY
ELECTRONIC ARTS INTERMIX, MFA Art Practice video screening, New York, NY
CURRENT PRACTICE, Invisible Dog, Brooklyn, NY
BUSHWICK LAUNDRY, Chico’s Laundromat (site specific), Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY
MENTOR-PROTÉGÉ, Protégé Gallery, NYC
FICTITIOUS TRUTHS: Exercises in Realism, Rooster Gallery, NYC
INAUGURAL SHOW, Ethan Pettit Contemporary Art, Brooklyn, NY
BUSHWICK FILM FESTIVAL, The Church/BobbyRedd, Brooklyn, NY
WACKADOODLE, Ethan Pettit Contemporary Art, Brooklyn, NY
GEO-LOCO, Outpost Resources, Ridgewood, NY **
Bushwick Film Festival, Goodbye Blue Monday, Brooklyn, NY
Borders, Studio 304, Brooklyn, NY
Palmetto Film Festival, Palmetto A.I.R., Brooklyn, NY
DATA DADA, Grace Exhibition Space, Brooklyn, New York **
Returning Home, East End Studio Gallery, Houston, Texas
Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY**
Dia De Los Muertos, East End Studio Gallery, Houston, Texas
OCTET, Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey
Designing Intelligence, Schmidt Center Gallery, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
Filthy Lucre, Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ
Octet: Codes and Contexts in Recent Art, Visual Arts Gallery, New York, NY
Consent. CUNY Graduate Center, New York, NY
Race and New Media. Superfront, New York, NY
Liminal Offerings. 58 Gallery, Jersey City, NJ *
Sanctuary. Rupert Ravens Contemporary, Newark, NJ
Fire and Ash. Ben Shahn Center, William Patterson University, NJ
Cut It Out. The Lab Gallery. New York, NY
Headlines. Pierro Gallery, South Orange, NJ
Copilandia. Centro de Arte de Sevilla. Sevilla, Spain.
Mothers, Sisters, Lovers. L.i.t.m. Gallery Space. Jersey City, NJ.
See Perro Redux. Jersey City Museum. Jersey City, NJ*
Weird New Jersey: the Exhibition. Here Art Center. New York, NY
Ambivalent Faces Vacillator in Exit 14-C. Brunswick Windows. Jersey City, NJ *
Skyway. Jersey City Museum at Victory Hall. Jersey City, NJ
O Los!. Iron Monkey, Jersey City, NJ *
Living a Culture of Peace. Victory Hall, Jersey City, NJ
Mas Luchas/More Wrestling. ARTS ON 6TH. Hoboken, NJ *
0730Too. Jersey City Museum. Jersey City, N.J
Everything Digital. Grace Church Space. Jersey City, N.J
Hispanic Heritage Arts Show. Rotunda Gallery, Jersey City, N.J .
New Kid on the Block. Rotunda Gallery, City Hall. Jersey City, N.J .
De Todos y De Nadien. Taller Boricua Gallery. New York, NY *
Deluxe. Community Gallery. Jersey City, N.J.
New Jersey Arts Annual. Jersey City Museum. Jersey City, N.J.
2000 Portraits Trans Hudson Gallery. New York, NY.
From the Slide Registry. Jersey City Museum. Jersey City, N.J.
Lowriders. Max Fish. New York, N.Y.**
Que es Chicano? What is Chicana? Marie Elias Center. Santa Ana, Cal.
Genderplex. Puffin Foundation Ltd. New York, N.Y.; May- June.
Views From The Hotel Millennium. 10 on 8 Windows New York, N.Y. *
Promotional Copy. Guggenheim Museum Soho. New York, N.Y.
ANTENNAE: Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, Fall 2015, http://www.antennae.org.uk/
BUSHWICK DAILY, “Art, Art Baby: Summer Art Shows to Keep you Sexy”, July 10, 2014,
HYPERALLERGIC: Sensitive to Art & its Discontents, 8 Artists to Watch from the 2015 Bushwick Open
Studios, 6-8-2015, http://hyperallergic.com/212865/8-artists-to-watch-from-the-2015-bushwick-open-studios/
LECTURES / PANELS / CONFERENCES
PRESENTATION PARTY NIGHT, Livestream NYC, Brooklyn, NY
STUDIO 301, Brooklyn, NY
TOWN HALL MEETING WITH COUNCILMAN ANTONIO REYNOSO, Williamsburg Charter High School, Brooklyn, NY
NATURALLY HYPERNATURAL: VISIONS OF NATURE, “Water-Bodies: A Relationship of Paradox”,
School of Visual Arts, NY, NY
BUSHWICK ART CRIT GROUP, Brooklyn Fire Proof, Brooklyn, NY