I want to report on my Brooklyn Utopias? exhibition as so much has been happening. The exhibition takes place at two places: The Brooklyn Historical Society and the Old Stone House. Both locations have historical significance but the second one's history really blew me away as I installed my little "Democracy Wall" project there. It turns out that the Old Stone House occupies the spot of the greatest battle of the Revolutionary War: (The Battle of Brooklyn). The vivid time-line of that battle and the loss of life involved by innocent men trying to protect "Democracy" utterly screams from the ground when you are there. (I became very in-tune with those energies the night of one of my events there.) In the Battle of Brooklyn 400 men lost their lives as they tried to stall the British while General Washington snuck away over the Gowanus Canal to streets next to mine on the way to Brooklyn Heights. This was the largest number of deaths in any of the battles of the Revolutionary War and these men literally sacrificed their lives for us to occupy the spot we are on right now.
So when I fast forward to the last two years of my life here in Carroll Gardens, and the enormous fighting spirit that has taken hold of so many of us, I am seeing we are in a spot that breeds debates and fights and even deaths. FIERCE DEBATES! The Gowanus Canal clean-up by getting the Canal Superfund Designated is now an even hotter and broader issue than our prior issues with out of context development were as this Canal clean-up issue affects our health and safety.
The history of my neighborhood has thus become so tangible to me and I have also begun to think about others people who were pushed out or killed before the Europeans ever arrived (the Native Americans). I realized that each spot on earth is hallowed ground of one kind or another. But the spots I am on are what I would call "contentious ground", no doubt about it. There is the spirit of the daring warrior here from our ancestors.
As an aside, I think it would be an interesting artistic project to find out what lies below one's house and yet I think some of us would prefer not to know.
At any rate my artist/activist work in my neighborhood has become situated in a greater historical context and that is very humbling and makes me feel honored too, I must say.
I got one very good question from someone at the Old Stone House event that evening: A woman asked me: "How did you feel when the Democracy Wall was demolished?" In the past I would have been devastated as an artist to see such an event occur, but through my art/activism here in CG, I realized something long ago: That wall was coming down no matter what I tried to do. We are hopefully winning the war, but yes we are losing many battles.
So I just tried to celebrate the wall to the hilt for all it was worth when it existed, Now, by exhibiting pieces of it in public I am able to outreach even more with it.
I also have exciting news! Brooklyn Utopias? is having many outreach events for the public and for teens. Susan Konvit and I (from this blog) are doing a project together next Tuesday with teens near my house: We will be helping them to create a work of art/performance in response to the issue of general air quality here (or lack thereof). This is so exciting to work with a fellow Goddard student on this. The place we will be holding this workshop is a very impressive, new non-profit called "Starting Artists" on 211 Smith Street in Brooklyn. Susan will be linking her own non profit in NJ to ours here in Brooklyn using this issue as a catalyst for conversation, for art, and for ACTION! Britta Wheeler will also be involved with us.