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"During my evacuation after Hurricane Katrina, I spent much time looking at aerial photographs of the city, watching in
disbelief as entire neighborhoods began to resemble street puddles. It was through these images that many people were able to locate and measure the flood levels of their home. Aspects of perspective, control, and surveillance are evident in this exchange.
Arriving in New York two months after the storm, I began making Polaroid photographs of puddles in the street. Using the Polaroid as a template, aluminum, resin and vinyl were used to build a floodwall around each puddle. The puddle form becomes a bowl with walls acting as a levee, while the bottom is flat to the ground, mimicking and emphasizing its photographic representation. The puddles are about transformation, both in time and geographical space, yet the form remains a justified abstraction. The shift from macro to micro is measured by using the length of my body as the measured distance of view. This human scale is not meant to alienate the viewer into the sublime, but rather to validate an embodied view of an ephemeral site.
Filling the puddles with birdseed is another metaphorical action, as the idea of flight in the threat of disaster may be seen as both fantastic and absurd. Here on the Lakefront, the puddles will be subject to the elements of rain, wind, sun, and migratory bird life. I am interested in the act of the birdfeeder puddle in that it may subvert the idea of the aerial (birds-eye) view as a powerful, god-like, and unobtainable measure of escape and longing.
This work is meant to function as a narrative disruption of the imagery we have been inundated with since the storm, using a hopeful rhetoric to create a dialogue that engages the survival process. It has done that already for me. The process of installing the work on the Lakefront was a powerful experience- even walking along the shore I became acutely aware of Elizabeth Underwood and I's footsteps in the sand, each and every persistent irregularity in the ground. Itching from the mosquitoes, we didn't say a word as I dug the puddles into the weeds and dirt. It was a strong itch and a long calmness.
Please walk through the tear in the fence, along the shores of Lake Ponchatrain, past the trash and debris into that hidden cove. Please step over the puddles and please feed the birds."
- Christy Speakman
(Bird/Puddle as of Dec 5th: