UNDERCURRENTS: Experimental Ecologies in Recent Art | May 27-June 19 | Curated by the Whitney Independent Study Program | The Kitchen, 512 w19 Street & the Little Red Lighthouse, Fort Washington Park | New York NY
Opening Reception | May 27 5-8PM | The Kitchen
Rates of Accumulation is a sound-based research project that turns around the expanded ecological history of the Eastern oyster. For Undercurrents, it is presented as a four-channel sound installation, accompanied by a large-scale drawing and a video, and as an FM broadcast radiating from a temporary radio station inside the Little Red Lighthouse on the Hudson River. With the charismatic figure of the oyster as a touchstone, Rates of Accumulation abstracts, translates and ultimately aims to recast moments in the ecological history of North America’s East Coast.
Oysters themselves are very quiet – you could almost say silent. Like the indescribable idea at the centre of a poststructuralist text, in Rates of Accumulation, the silence of oysters is surrounded by a swirling of related sounds. Composed of four discrete layers, the sound component in Rates of Accumulation fleshes out the political ecology of oysters in four times: deep geological time, indigenous time, colonial time, and “now” time. This oyster-soundscape is the combined effect of the ambient sounds of an oyster reef and its inhabitants, people slurping and shucking oysters, the sounding of a lighthouse bell and horn, the underwater sounds from sites related to the contemporary restoration, study, and harvesting of oysters in Massachusetts and New York.
For the installation, each of the four tracks is installed at a different level in a fire escape stairwell, the movement up through the layers of sound echoing the ascent to the apex of the Little Red Lighthouse. The sound installation is accompanied by video footage shot from inside the lighthouse itself and a drawing whose layering of materials references both the action by which oysters build their shells and the accumulations of individual oysters that constitute the architecture of oyster reefs. The broadcast emanating from the lighthouse simultaneously grounds and disperses the accumulated sounds, relations, and places of the project. As such, Rates of Accumulation loops back to the historically and geographically contested environment so crucial to its development: the brackish, densely inhabited estuaries of the East Coast.
Partially funded by the MIT Council for the Arts. Thanks to Alexis Bhagat, Brad Simpson, Chris Clepper, J.T. Boehm (the River Project), Pete Malinowski (New York Harbor School), Marieke Rosenbaum, Meg Rotzel and Madeleine Claire Elish for technical assistance; and to Rodney Rountree (Marine Ecology and Technology Applications), the River Project, and The Free Sound Project (users Benboncan, Stevebob69, and kathol) for providing sounds. Many thanks to my thesis readers: Krzysztof Wodiczko, Gediminas Urbonas, Christine Walley, and Hanna Rose Shell.
Drawing produced in collaboration with Sarah Dobbins.