ESTUARY / TOXI-CITY
In 2011, I began creating initial photographic and video studies for print, interactive and multi-monitor installation projects entitled Estuary, TOXI-CITY and CHEMICAL MAP. The work imagines the industrial port region of the Delaware River and around the industries along its tributaries in the age of climate change. The work addresses how industrial uses of the river, notably those of the energy industries and transportation industries, become inscribed in a visual language that ranges from geological maps to flood markers. It also considers how the meanings of markers change when ideas surrounding the water evolve. For example, what happens when the water is seen as a force washing salt and toxic elements inward toward the cities of the Delaware rather than a force washing toxins away. The project also makes comparisons between conditions of the Delaware estuary and those of the Kent shoreline in the UK where I grew up -- a shoreline equally prone to erasure in an age of rising waters.
Figure 1. Video sample: Industries and water flow. (Flash Video)
The result is an Artist Book (ESTUARY) and a Three Monitor Video-based Narrative (TOXI•CITY) -- a combinatory film imagining life in a flooded landscape made in collaboration with writer Scott Rettberg. The project also includes a supporting interactive Website with a unique CHEMICAL MAP that catalogs petro-chemicals of the Delaware Estuary as well as contaminated clean-up sites and brown fields along the shore and low-lying flood-prone lands. In this way the project is true bridging of research and art: of research (chemical map), research and documentary arts (Estuary), and combinatory, or data-base, fiction film (Toxi-City).
The project is based on original recordings -- most from Kayak -- of the industrial docklands that stretch from Wilmington to Trenton to include the cities and environs of Chester, Philadelphia, Camden and others as well as on materials recorded by walking the Kent shore, including the lower Thames estuary. Much of the work is filmed from kayak in the busy port areas – one of the busiest in the United States. Setting geological and marine mappings, FEMA flood zone studies, biological research, energy grids and industrial constructions in relation to original animated panoramic recordings and video, the project considers how the meanings of maps and markers may change in relation to the contexts in which they are applied. Recordings of ships in motion, lighthouse signals, and natural seasonal changes are among the measures of time that are integrated in the project. The narrative script is written by Scott Rettberg and with performances by seven actors.