Stewardship Treaties for Barren Island

Stewardship Treaties for Barren Island
an exhibit and workshop about waste, artifacts, care, and time
Sunday, May 6, 3:00-4:30pm

One of twelve reliquaries of Dead Horse Bay artifacts available for a stewardship treaty this may.

From the 1850s until its last inhabitants were forcibly evicted in 1936, Barren Island was a community built on trash. It housed both the stinking rendering plants and disenfranchised inhabitants who processed waste from Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Today, the detritus of what was once Barren Island litters the shores of Deadhorse Bay in south Brooklyn. The area has been designated a protected historical site, but without financial support to secure the area, thousands of New Yorkers flock to scavenge its shores every year.

Stewardship Treaties for Barren Island is an art-artifact piece where objects that have been collected from scavengers will be entrusted to stewards of the history and culture of Barren Island. Any member of the public can become a steward by co-writing a stewardship contract, or Treaty, that designates the terms of care. The terms of these Treaties are open, but they must include plans to care for the artifact for the next two hundred years, and they must maintain some sort of public access given that the artifacts are part of the heritage of many New Yorkers and belong to the commons.

This project is being supported by Trade School, and is limited to 15 participants. Sign up to participate here:

Stewardship Treaties for Barren Island is designed to make people think about the longevity of discards, especially in contrast to time frames we are more comfortable with. The project also highlights the ambivalent nature of discards as trash and treasures mediated by history and time.

Overall image and detail of an art-artifact from the Barren Island dump that needs stewardship.