|hallett's cove, August 2003-January 2004
A few things stand out when I think about this installation. It’s been a year since the piece was installed. It’s life lasted only 6 months. All that is left now are a few bags of green balls that I ended up not using. The rest is somewhere in this world- the possibilities are endless.
It took weeks to build the structures. I had no idea if they would endure the blazing sun, East River pollutants, salty water, and rigorous tides. The materials I used were so seemingly flimsy: hot glue and fishing line. I phoned an adhesive company and asked them for the strongest hot melt adhesive they had. Bostich makes hundreds of different grades of hot glue, made to stand up to all different kinds of temperatures.
Even after the pieces were installed I expected them to float away overnight. Day after day I would return to the site, astonished to see them still peacefully there. Joel who lives in the park gave me his number so if he saw them floating away he could call me. As if that would help- what would I do, jump in after them as they floated towards the sea?
During the installation of the piece, I swam in the East River a few times. I had heard so much about how polluted the water was and I was determined not to let the tiniest drop of it pass my lips. As I waded into the water I pressed my lips together so tightly that my chin started to ache. People on the shore looked at me pitifully as I plunged in after the boat and clipped the structures to their floating quick-release clips. The day before we had installed the 16 footings, heaving the 92 pound cinderblocks over the side of the boat one by one, each in a specific location. When I finally dragged myself out of the water onto the hot fly-covered rocks, I found tiny little wriggling worms all over my body.
The system that Gareth and I designed together worked unbelievably well. Each structure was anchored only on one corner and with a long “leash” so there would never be any pressure on the moorings. When the wind blew, the pieces would all turn the same way and “swim” out to the end of their leash in the direction the wind was blowing. At high tide the structures were farther out, and at low tide they drifted to within 15 feet of the shore.
On occasion I witnessed people throwing rocks at the structures, trying to burst the balls or sink the pieces. To one father with his young son in tow, I asked, “what are you doing?” He looked at me like I was dim-witted. “Trying to pop those things”, he said, smiling assuredly. I told him I was the artist and that it had taken me days to make those pieces, so could he not try to ruin them? He shrugged: whatever. Later when I inspected one piece that had gotten released somehow from it’s mooring, I found huge rocks lodged within the balls.
Cold weather set in and the piece was still going strong. One day I got a call- 2 of the structures had floated ashore. Amazingly, they weren’t breaking free and floating downstream with the current- instead they were floating gently to shore and getting stranded on the rocks. With 3 months left in the show, I had to reinstall the pieces that broke free. There was snow on the ground and the water was freezing cold. There was no boat to borrow. I devised a way to make a floating platform out of a huge chunk of styrofoam that had apparently been discarded from the set of a Woody Allen movie. I used a snow shovel as a paddle and tied a long rope around the Styrofoam chunk. I tied the rope to the shore, and paddled out with the structures in tow.
By Christmas, a few inches of snow had accumulated on the tops of the balls. In January it was brutally cold. There was one week when it was 20 below zero every day and even colder with wind chill. Icebergs were forming in the river. I went periodically to check on the piece and noticed the pieces seemed smaller, as if they were slowly sinking. A few days later 3 of them had disappeared under the ice; I could see the green color underneath the icebergs. The next time I came all of the structures had completely disappeared; it was like they never existed. In the freezing cold, I imagined dredging them up in the summer when I could get a boat in there.
Almost 2 months after the piece died, I learned some discomforting facts about what had happened to the structures after they had disappeared underneath the ice. Alissa, the shop technician for Socrates, called me one March day. “You’re not going to believe this”, she said. She had spent the weekend in Bay Head New Jersey, about 2 hours south of New York City. She was walking along the beach and saw some green spheres in the distance. When she picked them up she was in disbelief: they were the two shades of green I used, a combination of the two different sized spheres, and had the euro-matic logo on them. In the past 2 months, they had somehow gotten all the way from Long Island City, Queens, to Bay Head, New Jersey. This was an unfortunate yet interesting twist to the story, and I have since taken extra precautions to make sure nothing like this will happen again.