In September of 2014, Mare Liberum partnered with the global climate activist group 350.org to produce a series of events around extreme energy and water-as-commons, to coincide with the annual UN high-level meeting here in New York City.
SeaChange culminated in a 150-mile voyage down the Hudson River (from Troy to New York City) in a fleet of hand-crafted paper boats. This on-the-water, durational performance lasted three weeks and served as an experiment in visualizing the impossible. The project invited collaborations with boat clubs, colleges, small presses, community centers, individual activists, artists, and art spaces – and a rotating crew of over fifty volunteer paddlers from diverse backgrounds – galvanizing communities along the river through events focused on regional climate and water concerns.
Working with organizations like Riverkeeper, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, and with indigenous representatives from Algonquin, Wampanoag, and visiting Lakota tribes, SeaChange revealed how fossil fuel extraction and transport threatens the river ecosystem and affects low-income communities around the country. Along the way, we collected narratives of community response to climate change and shared them, both in an online journal and in public talks aboard the historic ship Lilac moored in Battery Park City. Our arrival in New York City was marked by two culminating participatory events: the symbolic de-colonizing of an island in the East River and its dedication to global climate change refugees, and a traditional Lakota water ceremony led by tribal leaders. SeaChange posited that artists play an important role in shaping culture, in increasing civic engagement and community responsibility, and even in suggesting unconventional solutions to staggeringly complex policy and ecological issues. As we learned with SeaChange, water is an equalizer – we all live downstream, and we all require clean water – as well as a metaphor for our interdependence and interconnectivity to each other.
This project was produced in close collaboration with Sunita Prasad, Jean Barberis, Kevin Buckland, and Amaranta Herrero and the rest of the Mare Liberum crew – Kendra, Stephan, Ben.
(The above video was produced by Troy-based collective Hypergeist in advance of the journey.)
Floating Library, Lilac, NYC 2015.