Earlier this fall, in October, Lisa Link and I presented End of the Line: Building Bridges with Pittsburgh’s Busways, a temporary public art project at Spark’s Lunch n Learn at the Carnegie Library. At the core of the project was our digital art and community research workshops at Carnegie Branch Libraries. The type of work we were doing in 1996-7 had not been done before in Pittsburgh; certainly not as a key component of a public art project. In our presentation we looked at End of the Line from the lens of the libraries’ recent shift to digital labs.
We used the decentralized network of Carnegie Libraries as a structure for engaging residents in these neighborhood hubs. Coming from the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, we had a research orientation towards working with project participants. We came to library workshops to conduct oral histories, to gather and copy personal and historic photographs, and to begin conversations about what mattered to people – their concerns, issues, hopes and dreams for the future of their communities. None of the hand-held technologies that we currently take for granted existed at the time. Our only hand-held was a Sony Walkman. We worked with desktops, not laptops.
Partnering with the libraries in the public engagement and outreach process was the best thing we could have done. In our Spark presentation Lisa and I talked about the qualities that librarians have which make them perfect partners for this type of project. We shared how librarians are innately talented problem-solvers, community leaders and embody the term “customer-service.” Less than month from our national election, Lisa said “librarians should be running the country.”
From the libraries we came back to the STUDIO having successfully conducted our community research. We set about analyzing materials and quickly saw four themes emerging for the design of bus billboards. In order to include everyone’s participation on the project, we created an online archive, using the 1997 Frames technology of WEB 1.0.
Here you can see one of the twenty Port Authority buses we used to transport the project. Inside the bus, Lisa and I are seated by one of the interior posters celebrating the libraries’ key role. In the bus, we are talking to Ruth Rosfeld’s daughter. Ruth was featured in our “neighborhood hero” themed bus billboard design. She is from Beechwood, and you can just see the Beechwood librarian in the background of the photograph.
You can find the original End of the Line web site here and a photo album with complete documentation here. At Spark’s Lunch n Learn we had a packed house of educators, library professionals and community leaders.
Lisa Link and Io Palmer invited me to participate in their Serve & Project, an interdisciplinary collaborative public arts project seeking dinner napkins from creative thinkers around the world. Part of their curatorial vision is that while food references sustenance it also represents social and political issue.
“Reaping What We’ve Sown,” below, is my contribution to the project. The napkins are linen, initially dyed with chamomile tea, and then painted on, with a sumi brush and ink, and finally, the digital imagery was ironed on. My thoughts about food these days range from the young girls, pre- child labor laws, shelling shrimp in Louisiana for the rest of us to eat – to – Monsanto corn – to – the overfishing of our oceans. Statistically, the size of fish/shellfish has dropped astronomically over the past century, due to over-fishing. This food landscape painting is about 52″ long, 17″ high. Here is a detailed view:
Lisa Link‘s artwork:
No one here listens to me when I try to explain chemicals in the food and all this other stuff that is bad for you. Trevor just doesn’t believe it even though his family has a lot of health issues due to diet and now not sure the kids listen. So, here is what I made, with my emails from the Environmental Working Group – fighting to get BPA out of cans….
Here’s the details for the May 4 to May 22, 2012 exhibition:
In the meantime, I’d like to thank my friendly reference librarian at Penn State who assisted me in locating the over-fishing imagery. You can find the originals and more here:
. . . the moment is there for the taking, a chance for something worthwhile to rise out of the muck . . .
The Big Spill, TIME, May 17, 2010
Two years later . . . NPR: March 5, 2012
Deal Reached On Gulf Oil Spill Victims RENEE MONTAGNE and JEFF BRADY
MONTAGNE: And does this, then, settle all the claims against BP?
BRADY: No it doesn’t. This does represent the largest group of plaintiffs that were suing BP – something more than 100,000 people hurt by the spill. These are folks in the sea food industry, tourism workers, but not everyone. Gulf Coast states and the federal government still have claims against the company. The federal claims alone, based on laws like the Clean Water Act, could cost BP billions more dollars. And the amount depends on whether the government can prove the company was grossly negligent. That’s a technical term that would have to be proven in court.
Then there’s a New Health Claims Process to consider . . . for both Gulf residents and those hired to clean up the spill who have seen their and their children’s health affected by the spill and the clean-up. The NIH and the NIHS both have health studies on the affects of the spill, and it’s looking like these issues will be fought out in court for years to come(despite the settlement).
The politics are ruthless, the corporations are ruthless. Off-shore drilling continues to abound around the world. Regular people are caught in the middle – they need jobs to pay the bills and they need a clean environment for good health. In some cases their jobs and businesses are dependent on having a clean environment.
What leaves me curious is the approach of the Obama Administration. On the one hand, the administration is auctioning off an increasing number of opportunities to drill of our coasts as well as negotiating with Mexico to do so. (Mexico’s regulations and environmental protections are much less than our own) On the other, the U.S. Department of Defense is one of single-most biggest oil users in the world. You can read the Pew Charitable Trusts’ report outlining the DOD’s energy usage. In addition, 80% of supply convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan are for the transportation of fuels. In 2010 alone there have been 1,100 attacks on these convoys. And between 2003 and 2007, 3,000 soldiers died from these attacks just in Iraq. As a result, our military is shifting toward using clean energy to increase national security and to save money. An estimated 10 billion dollar investment by 2030 will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs and give the green energy sector a shot in the arm that it could really use. Somewhere in my reading, a journalist’s observation was that the administration was operating true to form: extremely pragmatic and predictably annoying to both sides of the issue. I get it.
Clean Water Action is having a press conference at Noon on Wednesday, November 2nd to push the Board of Health to take action on a strengthening and updating of the rules they use to permit toxic emissions. The current rules were written when Reagan was still in the White House and the space shuttle program was brand new. Both of those are gone now but we still use the same rules. We now know much more about the bad effects of toxic emissions and our rules need to reflect that. Many jobs in the “new economy” won’t move here because our air is so bad. We need clean air for the economy that we want. (bump)
More information: Regional Focus: Pittsburgh | Clean Water Action and (412) 765-3053 for Clean Water Action Pittsburgh Office.