Sometimes as the world falls apart around us, as ubiquitous corruption exposes the true values of capitalism, as the torrential rain of violence exposes America’s racist foundations, why should my life’s work come to this? Is it conscionable to while away the summer, enjoying sunny days and cool waters like a carefree adventurer, while the world burns?
Then I remember what got me into this.
Well over a decade ago, Inspired by my trainhopping experience and my 5th grade reading of Huck Finn, I traveled across country in my beat-up old pickup truck, built a raft out of trash, and floated one of the largest fastest rivers on the continent. The towns we passed through were ghost towns abandoned by people who now shopped at the faraway Walmart, or were victims of upscale redevelopment. We were interested in what stories were being lost or threatened by economic displacement, gentrification, and changing climate. I wanted to hear those stories. I wanted other people to hear those stories.
So I built a homemade shantyboat to travel the rivers and find out.
These archives telling otherwise untold personal narratives are a significant cultural artifact with wide-reaching significance to not only the people in fieldwork areas, but to people living and searching for solutions to shared challenges in river communities elsewhere on the continent.
This work is part of the solution. At it’s best, it helps build stronger, more connected communities. It helps challenge ideas about historical authorship, creating a multi-perspective and multi-path take on historical narrative. It asks difficult questions about the importance of a public commons and the nature of modern enclosures of the commons. It challenges dominant cultural assumptions about the role in society of people living at the fringes. Finally, it offers one vision of what contemporary art can be when combined with a passion for social change.
That’s why we do this. Not just me, but my crew mates, the people who share their stories, and supporters of the project. Because it matters to them.
Consider what the project means to you and whether it is worth supporting the project this year as we anticipate exploring the history and lives of the people along the historic Hudson Valley.