Art is integral to imagining new worlds. Launching August 15, 2014 on the Delaware River, WetLand is a mobile, sculptural habitat and public space constructed to explore resource interdependency and climate change in urban centers. A floating sculpture, it resembles a partially submerged building, integrating nature with urban space. Narrating a watery urban ecotopia, the interior contains a living space, work space, and performance space, it combines art, architecture, and ecology. WetLand’s overall ecosystem includes rainwater collection and purification, greywater filtration, dry compost systems, outdoor vegetable gardens, indoor hydroponic gardens, and railing gardens circling the perimeter.
Increasing numbers of people are growing some of their own food at home and in cooperative spaces, forming community-wide initiatives that support urban farms, rainwater collection, and storm water management. WetLand serves as a platform to strengthen these movements. Residents live onboard and host activities, including free workshops, performances, and events. A stage for evolving stories about our shared future, WetLand describes the impact each individual can have on our environment.
Attention to the social and environmental impacts involved in resource production, distribution, use, and disposal are important to the formation of WetLand. WetLand augments local economies by attracting a broad range of communities to the space. This fosters new friendships and collective experiences through exchange-based collaborations while recognizing novel ways of working and being together.
Through partnerships with educational institutions such as Philadelphia Academies and the Sustainability Workshop School, WetLand engages with students who steward the space, collect data relating to energy use and production, and test and maintain the project’s water systems. The goal of WetLand is to encourage individual community members to apply the ideas brought to life on board. Equal parts symbol, social space, stage, and shelter, the WetLand sculpture is an argument for thriving local environmental economies.
Rebecca Aston. Rebecca Aston is from Zimbabwe. She recently graduated from Yale in 2014 with a BA in Art. Coming from a background in painting, she works primarily with the moving image and new media. She creates paintings, immersive digital installations and screen-based works. Currently she is assisting Mary Mattingly with WetLand.
Ellie Clark. Ellie Clark is the programming coordinator for the WetLand project. She is a current graduate student in the Sotheby’s Institute of Art’s Art Business program. After graduating with a degree in Arts Management from the College of Charleston in 2012, Ellie moved to New York City to intern at the SPRING/BREAK Art Show and then was hired by The They Co as Project Manager. After obtaining her Master degree, Ellie hopes to continue her passion for organizing art events, developing cultural programming, and advancing the public’s access to contemporary art.
Jon Cohrs. Jon Cohrs is a visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY. He created OMG I’m on .TV; an analog Pirate TV station that filled the void left behind by the digital transition. OMG TV was used as a reference in a Supreme Court amicus brief on creativity and copyright. He has taught at Parsons The New School for Design, SUNY Purchase in the Film + Media, Finish Academy of Fine Art, and Colorado College. He just completed a fellowship at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center and is currently working on a film about the New Jersey Meadowlands call the "The Spice Trade Expedition". His work has been shown at Ars Electronica, FutureEverything, 2010 Vancouver Olympics, The Total Museum Korea, Art in General and discussed in numerous publications such as NY Times, Deutsche Welle, Neural Magazine, Make Magazine, Furtherfield, We Make Money Not Art, PSFK, and Gizmodo.
Anna Ekros. Anna Ekros is based in New York, Berlin and Stockholm. She is a visual artist with her foundation in photography, video and sculpture. Her work has been exhibited in galleries such as Kulturhuset, Stockholm and Galleri Kontrast. She has been awarded grants from the Culture Department of the City of Stockholm, Ansgarius Foundation and JL Eklund Foundation. She is a part of the photography based collective Piri piri and cofounded the artist collective Fundamentet and LSP Photography. Ekros is educated in documentary photography, at the Nordic School of Photojournalism. Before and during the program she was employed as a photojournalist at some of Swedens leading newspapers such as Sydsvenskan, Dagens Arbete and Dala Demokraten. In 2013 she got accepted to the Masters of Fine Art at The School of International Center of Photography, New York, where she is currently enrolled in the program. As a member of the artist group the Papacookie family and part of the Brooklyn based artist collective VOL ART, Ekros is collaboratively curating continuous events and workshops.
Ivan Gilbert. Ivan Blake Gilbert is a recent fellow of the 2013 New York Arts Practicum and a BFA graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 2011 he was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to study in Istanbul, Turkey. While his training is in painting he is making the transition to experimental architecture with a focus in housing and services for the most destitute multitudes of the planet’s megacities. He will be living on WetLand in order to better assess his physical, emotional, and psychological needs in an unorthodox living situation. http://ivan-gilbert.com/
Abby Holtzman. Abby Holtzman is a junior at Swarthmore College studying psychology and Russian. She writes and edits for Swarthmore's Daily Gazette and enjoys playwriting, acting, conducting oral histories, curating exhibits, and organizing storytelling events. As an intern at FringeArts, she is thrilled to be working on WetLand. You can check out her posts about the project at blog.fringearts.com.
Brian House. Brian House is a media artist whose work traverses alternative geographies, experimental music, and a critical data practice. He is interested in the contingent qualities of information and how we experience time in network culture. By constructing embodied, participatory systems, he seeks to negotiate between algorithms and the rhythms of everyday life.
Kim Reid Kuhn. Kim Reid Kuhn holds a BFA in Fine Art from University of Nebraska at Omaha. After graduating, Kim pursued a personal studio practice, teaching, and curating. Recent exhibitions include shows at NewBLK, Tugboat Gallery and RNG Gallery, as well as a two-person show at Bemis Underground. Kim has taught art classes at Joslyn Art Museum, The Union for Contemporary Art, several Montessori schools as well as mentoring at the Kent Bellows Studio and Center for the Visual Arts. In 2009 she started Wunderkabinett, hosting art courses for children. Her passion for curating has led her to envision, partner with many local artists, and open Sweatshop Gallery in the Benson District of Omaha. She was selected for the Nebraska Arts Council's Artists in Schools and Communities roster and chosen for a 2014 exhibition in the council's Fred Simon Gallery. Kim won the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award in 2013 for Best 2D Artist, in 2013 and 2012 for Best Two Person Show, and she was nominated by the OEAA in 2010 and 2011for the Best Emerging Artist and Best Solo Exhibition Award. The artist resides in Omaha, Neb. kimreidkuhn.com
Greg Lindquist. Greg Lindquist is an artist whose paintings and photographs depict specific places whose political, economic and physical forces alter our land and lives. While his networks of color abstract paintings at first suggest placid landscapes, upon closer inspection appear unsettling, sickly and toxic. Lindquist’s most recent paintings have addressed Duke Energy’s spill of coal ash into the Dan River. He also writes and edits art criticism for various publications. For WetLand, Lindquist, working closely with Mary Mattingly, will develop, coordinate and manage the garden systems. The garden’s bounty will become the basis for the Boat Banquet communal dinners at WetLand in August.
Saito Group. Saito Group creates interactive installations, digital texts and physical texts, with the ultimate aim of exploring how triplicate works of literature, sculpture and technology can react to a community, develop intelligence or become a hub for performance. Saito Group is part of Brown University’s Program in “Literary Hypermedia.” They have published at Roadrunner, Jacket2, Boog City, Lilliput Review, Modern Haiku. They have showed work at The Bowery Poetry Club, Gelman Gallery (at RISD), Interrupt (at Brown), Purple Blurb (at MIT), Central Booking, Yellow Peril Gallery, Transatlantyk. They have taught courses at Central Booking Gallery and Brown University. http://www.saitogroup.info/
Esteban Gaspar Silva. Esteban Gaspar Silva is an artist and musician currently working on a long term artistic and academic project based around the idea of Open Source ideology in the physical world. The project aims to critique copyright restrictions and cultural perceptions of authorship being singular instead of collaborative. Being involved with the DIY music scene for various years now in bands including Mount Righteous, The Act of Estimating as Worthless, Wood Spider, Sweet Street Symphony, and Whale Whale Whale; Esteban attempts to apply the DIY ethics to his work and networking outside of the music scene and into the art and academic world. Esteban was born in Mexico City, grew up in Irving Texas, and then moved to New York in pursue of a degree in Media, Society, and the Arts at SUNY Purchase.
Karla Stingerstein. One way we can come to understand how we relate to each other and our environment is through activities of stewardship. Working across a range of media, Karla integrates research and art-making to explore how we maintain and safeguard our world and the things in it. Currently, she is researching links between cooperative animal behavior and safekeeping activities. Before that she collected and transformed domestic detritus found on the streets of Brooklyn to investigate refuse, care, place and home. Karla holds an M.F.A. from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. She has participated in group exhibitions at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York, Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, Pratt Institute, New York, the University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts, ED. Varie, New York and the Banana Factory, Pennsylvania. She has also participated in the GO! Brooklyn Museum Open Studio Project. Karla has received grants from the University of Massachusetts Arts Council and the University of Massachusetts Art and Art History Department. Karla is formerly the Director of Development at the Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, New Jersey and the Gallery Director for the Student Union Art Gallery at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts. Karla currently teaches at Kean University, Union, New Jersey and Middlesex County College, Edison, New Jersey.
Rand Weeks. Alternative Energy Designer and Installation Engineer with Alternative Energy Design Associates, Restoration and Conservation Environmental LLC, BioRock International, Environmental Building Design, 1kD, and Waterpod.
With fifteen close collaborators from diverse sectors of business, government, sciences, and art, 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: 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 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 reclaim common spaces and begin to provide for each others’ basic needs.