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Residuum: Gowanus to Hunters Point

The ever-changing water surface of the Gowanus Canal seduces and bewitches me. The surreal colors and forms from my unaltered photographs of this Brooklyn Superfund site stem from many sources of pollutants, including petroleum run-off, sewage, and coal tar, created by Manufactured Gas Plants over one hundred years ago.

 

My Residuum series also includes site-specific video projection, data visualization, and sculptural interventions. I continue to expand this project by collaborating with the scientific community, gaining a deeper understanding of the environmental and political situation through our creative endeavors.

Many environmental battles are being waged In my own San Francisco community, specifically Hunters Point. While Hunters Point's pollutants hide out of sight, Gowanus Canal's often flow right on the surface, visible to all, providing a platform for conversation about both sites. 

“Spotty, iridescent, and platy sheens of varying intensity” were noted by the authors of a 2009 Gowanus Canal Investigation Executive Summary Report, along with fecal matter, emulsified oil, and blebs of non-aqueous phase liquid Photograph, Archival Pigment Print 24”x36”

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“Multiple manufactured gas plants located along the canal, took coal, heated it up, and used the gas produced to light people’s homes. A byproduct of that coal processing is coal tar”, much of which can be found at the bottom of the canal today.” —Natalie Loney, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Photograph, Archival Pigment Print 24”x36”

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“This sediment can be anywhere from about 10- to 20-feet thick over the entire surface of the canal, however that contamination in the native sediment goes several feet down, 100-feet in certain areas.” —Natalie Loney, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Photograph, Archival Pigment Print 24”x36”

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Enterococci live in the feces of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Their presence in the water is an indication of fecal pollution and the possible presence of pathogens that could be harmful to human health. Combined sewer overflow discharges and storm water runoff from streets are the primary contributors to fecal pollution in the (Gowanus Canal). — River Project NYC Photograph, Archival Pigment Print 24”x36”

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AR demonstration: Enterococci live in the feces of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Their presence in the water is an indication of fecal pollution and the possible presence of pathogens that could be harmful to human health. Combined sewer overflow discharges and storm water runoff from streets are the primary contributors to fecal pollution in the (Gowanus Canal). — River Project NYC Photograph, Archival Pigment Print 24”x36”

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NYC DOH Enterococcus Standards. An indication of fecal pollution and the possible presence of pathogens that could be harmful to human health Photographs: 24”x36” each. Data Visualization: dimensions variable Installation view of framed archival pigment prints with hand-drawn data visualization and text

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Manufactured gas, produced by super-heating coal provided the first source of lighting and cooking fuel to the city, enabling the massive urban and industrial expansion of the late-19th and early-20th century. Photograph, Archival Pigment Print 24”x36”

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The Carcinogen Benzo(a)pyrene was measured at more than 300x the allowable detected amount in Gowanus Canal surface water contaminants, as compared to the NY State standard for drinking water. (Data from table E of 2017 Gowanus Canal Public Health Assessment, NY State Department of Health) Photograph, Archival Pigment Print 36”x24”

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The Carcinogen Benzo(a)pyrene was measured at more than 300x the allowable detected amount in Gowanus Canal surface water contaminants, as compared to the NY State standard for drinking water. (Data from table E of 2017 Gowanus Canal Public Health Assessment, NY State Department of Health) Photograph, Archival Pigment Print 24”x36”

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Gowanus Canal surface water contaminants, showing ratio of the maximum detected amount to the NY State standard for drinking water. Carcinogen Benzo(a)pyrene measured at more than 300x standard.
(Data from table E of 2017 Gowanus Canal Public Health Assessment, NY State Department of Health)

Work-in-progress, Gowanus to Hunters Point series (working title)

Collaboration with data scientist Kerry Rodden 

Proposed mode of display: Archival Pigment Print with 25-second Augmented Reality video overlay