“The components of the installation Hydrologic Unity 02040205 include a small punt – a flat-bottomed boat – which the artist constructed along with members the public here at the museum, and a neon piece that references the concept of “hydrologic units” – a system that geologists use to categorize and classify bodies of water throughout the world. The title of the piece references hydrologic unit code (HUC) as well, which is one of the ways the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) designates the Brandywine. This code situates the River within the Mid-Atlantic water-resources region (02), the Delaware sub-region (0204), the Lower Delaware accounting unit (020402), and finally, within the Brandywine – Christina locality (02040205) itself. Here, the artist has created a play on the word “unit” with “unity” which he feels describes the river itself as a link between diverse peoples varying landscapes.
The artist will make use of the boat to produce his work on and around the Brandywine River which is mapped on its decks, to meet with the public on the waterway, and to aid in his research of the river and its surrounding communities. He will also lead a number of public, interpretive trips with experts over his year long residency.”
The neon light references the river’s former industrial uses as a source of power. During the Industrial Revolution, the reign was a seat of power and hundreds mills were activated by the Brandywine (including the one you’re standing in now). The neon was fabricated with the specific constraint to use the amount power that the River could generate using an inexpensive consumer grade hydroelectric generator.
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My artwork engages with complex systems around waterway ecologies and their surrounding communities through sculpture, video, and performance. I am interested in rivers like the Brandywine that once were the lifeblood of cities and towns all across the country, but that have fallen into disuse and at times occupy precarious environmental situations.
Regional waterways once dictated where and how cities came to be built, and acted as a connective fabric between distant regions and peoples. They powered industry and provided residents with food and drinking water while serving the public’s needs for both transportation and recreation. My work invites the public to interact directly with their local rivers and streams, and to question the role of these waterways in contemporary American life as a means to thinking about larger ecological topics. The Brandywine flows into the Delaware and rejoins the Atlantic in the Chesapeake Bay, and in a sense, all waters are connected. The sort of work that the Brandywine Conservancy is doing on the Brandywine River contributes not only to clean drinking water for neighboring cities, but to cleaner Oceans.
If rivers are no longer harnessed to generate power, my piece also asks how could these rivers, along with other energy generating technologies, one day be harnessed again? Today, the Brandywine continues to provide recreational opportunity, sport, and pleasure over its 20 mile run, while roughly 500,000 people drink water originating in the Brandywine watershed. My ongoing project is an exploration of the unity of the Brandywine itself: its landscape, its history, and its people.