Contempo Boat Artists Float Their Ideas

Water on the brain

In a similar utopian vein, Mary Mattingly, who founded The Waterpod, a kind of eco-barge living experiment that floated around New York for two months in 2009, has created Flock Houses this summer: a group of "self-contained migrating ecosystems" made with collected recycled materials. Two of them, fastened to 55-gallon drums, will be launched on the Bronx River and float down to Snug Harbor on Staten Island, where people can visit.

The paradox, because most of these artists cite issues vital to political movements of the past year—specifically shrinking access to shared resources, or "the commons"—is the lack of aquatic engagement among Occupy activists themselves. (The West Coast port occupations and Oakland port shutdown are exceptions.) The point most of these artists stress is that water is what connects us, both locally and globally, but it's often ignored—or seen as a forbidden zone, available only for commercial or "official" usage. Activists concerned with space and resources might look to artists working with boats for how to creatively occupy this primordial collective realm.

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