Seaworthy Art Exhibit Allows New Yorkers To Channel Their Inner Pirate


Photo by George Boorujy

As summer approaches, many New Yorkers head to the beaches along Long Island or the banks of the Hudson, to escape the heat island and pavement jungle. A few others build boats themselves to explore the East River or other waterways of the five boroughs. The life aquatic is a slice of open space in New York that few New Yorkers truly get to experience. New York City has 700 miles of coastline and 72 islands, but many New Yorkers rarely make it out to the waterfront, much less get in the actual water. In an attempt to buck that trend, Seaworthy, an art exhibition that opened this weekend at EFA Project Space celebrates the spirit of these artists, boatbuilders, and mariners with a series of public screenings, performances, lectures, workshops and artist-led excursions on the water.

When one thinks about midtown Manhattan, water may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the curators at EFA working with Flux Factory and the Gowanus Studio Space have developed complementary programs that will not only get you thinking about the water in novel ways and will also teach you how to build a boat and take you out on the water.

One of my most memorable moments in NYC was riding in the Tide and Current Water Taxi, a rowboat water taxi built and run by artist Marie Lorenz. Looking at the Manhattan skyline while paddling in a rowboat through the treacherous waters of Hell's Gate was humbling and exhilarating. Seaworthy reminded me of this trip. It leads you to think about a boat as a tool for collective action, and also as an opportunity for private reflection and freedom.

photo by Marie Lorenz

All of the artists in Seaworthy, use water and access to the water as a subject for their art. One of the highlights of the exhibit was George Boorujy's NY Pelagic. George had been thinking about the giant garbage patches in the Pacific and wanted to do a project that highlighted our connection to, impact on, and ignorance of, the ocean and its wildlife. George also wanted to make a statement about what is considered garbage in our society and what items we as a society value. So he decided to create original drawings of pelagic (open ocean) birds and place them in glass bottles along with an information sheet about the project and his contact information. George then seals the bottle, and launches them into the water and their unknown fate. One of George's NY Pelagic bottles was found in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, by a marine biologist, a few days after George released it in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

Another highlight from the show was Jonathan Kaiser's Janet II, a personal, portable vessel made out of garbage including chairs and plastic bags that show the second life that "garbage" potentially can have.

You can check out their pieces at EFA project space through July 29th. Throughout the rest of the summer, the Gowanus Studio Space is hosting a series of workshops on boatbuilding and nautical culture. Artist Natalia Porter will lead a Traditional Mexican Trajinera Building Workshop in partnership with architecture students in Xochimilco. After the Trajinera is launched, it will host a week of floating dinner conversations.

Another boat, an old boat constructed primarily from scrap material will take people for a ride along the Gowanus Canal. Mare Liberum, another Gowanus Canal art collective, will build a fleet of boats that can be built in a single afternoon.

The nautical events I'm most looking forward to are the public voyages curated by Flux Factory. A floating hotel, called Ms. Nancy, made out of reclaimed materials, will be moored at Marina 59 in the Rockaways and open for weekend rentals. Last, but not least, Gabriela Basterra, Andy Bichlbaum, and Jeff Day will present "Eco-Activist Sailing Tours," aboard the Alalba, a 50-foot ketch.

With activities like these, who knows what hidden treasures New York harbor holds. Ahoy!

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