“Where we perceive a chain of events [the angel of history] sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”
– Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 1940.
Artificial Corridors is a nautical dérive, or drift across New York State. It is a durational performance by boat, tracing a line to highlight a now obsolete but formerly crucial route of trade and transport crisscrossing the vestiges of the Erie Canal and Hudson River that once connected the cities of Buffalo and New York. Though New York City has continued to advance its position as a global metropolis throughout the two centuries subsequent to construction of the Erie Canal, the sacrifice zone of Western New York remains permeated with legacy toxins, brownfields, polluted waterways, and other public health burdens and socio-economic hardships indicative of the myriad externalities of industries of extraction, manufacturing, and energy production. Long after smokestack-chasing industrialists abandoned the region, traveling first south, then across the oceans to the east in a perpetual search for cheaper labor, fewer regulations, and freer markets, Buffalo, like many “legacy cities” in the Great Lakes Basin, was left with an accumulation of rust, rot, corrosion, and contamination.
In an absurdist response to the complexities embodied in the wreckage of such histories, artist Paul Lloyd Sargent employs the tactic of the dérive in this summer’s Artificial Corridors project to pilot a 19-foot, open-hulled powerboat, to navigate across the New York State Canal System and down the Hudson River, and to transport a cargo comprised of remnants of the Great Lakes Basin’s toxic legacy. Titled [subset of the archive], Sargent has compiled an array of pollution and environmental toxin samples in order to critique commonly held conceptions of “pollution,” ultimately positing that the entirety of the Great Lakes watershed, with its tributaries, littoral zones, and coastlines, as an enduring archive of the material histories and conditions that produced this region. As cargo on the drift, [subset of the archive] manifests as a curio cabinet of samples ranging from roadside litter, leaking fuel oils, and lawn chemical run-off to soil, sediment, air, and water samples laden with mercury, lead, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyl, C. botulinum, E. coli, and fecal coliform, each collected from brownfields, waterways, and Superfund sites in the Erie Basin, like the Buffalo River, Scajaquada Creek, Love Canal, Tonawanda Coke, and the Manhattan Project. In addition, [subset of the archive] includes culturally constructed “contaminants,” such as invasive species and weeds, as well as personal pollutions of everyday life, represented by household dust and detritus, pharmaceuticals and other heath care discards, pet waste, residential sewerage, and the microplastics found in beauty products now impacting the ecology of the Great Lakes and other water bodies on the molecular level. Juxtaposed in this context, [subset of the archive] aims to illustrate that, just as there is inequity in the distribution of wealth and risk in the production of Capital, similarly, not all pollution is created equal.
Route and Schedule:
- Note bene: Due to the ambling nature inherent in the dérive, as well as the fickle fates of weather, mechanics, and other factors, the schedule below is merely an approximation and is likely to change significantly over the course of this project. To connect with Sargent directly, travel with him for a stretch of the route, and/or invite him to stop, speak, or stay at homes, towns, institutions, or sites along the route of the NYS Canal System or Hudson River, it is best to contact him via cell phone (area code 312 dash 860 dash 0562) or email (paul dot lloyd dot sargent /at/ gmail dot com). You may also follow his progress along the drift and find more contextual information about Erie Basin Meets Erie Basin and other projects by visiting and following these sites and social media platforms:
Buffalo • Saturday, June 28th
Artificial Corridors will officially embark from Buffalo’s Erie Basin, at the mouth of the Buffalo River, on June 28th, following a christening ceremony and launch event, from 6:00 to 8:00pm, to publicly name Sargent’s vessel during Buffalo’s 2014 “City at Night” festival, located at Silo City. Entitled Hey NYC! Take Back Yr Sh#t!, this event encourages Buffalonians to visit with Sargent, talk about the project, and to contribute to [subset of the archive] with their own detritus to be “returned” to the rightful owners in New York City. More information can be found here on Facebook.
[Prior to Take Back Yr Sh#t!, at 3-5pm, Sargent encourages anyone in Buffalo to attend Anna Scime’s premiere of the film Everybody Lives Downstream, screening at the Burchfield Penney: https://www.facebook.com/events/281280908720978 and http://www.burchfieldpenney.org/events/event:06-28-2014-3-00pm-everybody-lives-downstream]
Following the official christening and launch event, Sargent will sail to Rich Marina on the Niagara River to moor for a few remaining days to complete any necessary maintenance and safety preparations, as well as to load the vessel for departure. Barring any unforeseen delays, he will embark for the mouth of the canal, in North Tonawanda, on the morning of Wednesday, July 2nd.
Lockport (30 miles) • Wednesday, July 2nd
Albion (30 | 60 miles) • Thursday, July 3rd
Brockport (15 | 75 miles) • Thursday, July 3rd
Rochester (20 | 95 miles) • Friday, July 4th
Newark/Lyons (40 | 135 miles) • Friday, July 4th
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (20 | 155 miles) • Saturday, July 5th
Syracuse/Onondaga Lake Inner Harbor (45 | 200 miles) • Saturday / Sunday, July 5& 6th
Oneida Lake/Verona Beach (50 | 250 miles) • Monday, July 7th
Utica (40 | 290 miles) • Tuesday, July 8th
Herkimer (15 | 305 miles) • Tuesday, July 8th
Amsterdam (50 | 355) • Wednesday, July 9th
Schenectady (20 | 375 miles) • Thursday, July 10th
Troy (25 | 400 miles) • Thursday, July 10th
Albany (10 | 410 miles) • Friday, July 11th
Hudson (30 | 440 miles) • Friday, July 11th
Poughkeepsie (40 | 480 miles) • Saturday, July 12th
Beacon (15 | 495 miles) • Saturday, July 12th
Tallman Mountain State Park / Palisades (40 | 535 miles) • Sunday, July 13th
Gowanus Canal / Brooklyn (40 | 575 miles) • Monday, July 14th
Paul Lloyd Sargent is proud to produce Erie Basin Meets Erie Basin, Vol. III: Artificial Corridors in partnership with Dr. Sherri Mason, Professor of Chemistry at SUNY Fredonia (http://www.fredonia.edu/chemistry/Faculty/Mason.asp), the Clean Air Coalition of WNY (https://www.cacwny.org), and PUSH Buffalo/PUSH Blue (http://pushbuffalo.org / http://greendevelopmentzone.org/jobs/push-blue).