Friday, July 17, 2015

1998, BOSTON HARBOR, "The only public place is water"


The Essence of Place was an international exchange of artists and urban designers who investigated, through a creative and exploratory dialogue, the city as the basic element of a nation's structure. It spoke to the common urban essence peculiar to Tainan and Boston through a lens that looked from the past through the present and to the future of both places. I worked with the concept that all surfaces (i.e., all property), excluding water surfaces, are strictly privately owned at the Fort Point waterfront. This locale forms a most unnatural theatrical set which is absolutely restrictive by its principle and does not leave any space for the outside unenfranchised participant I used the metaphor of a bird that is forbidden to land on any of those privately owned surfaces, and is forced to land on the only public surface, the water. I built a raft with a huge stylized bird's beak and launched it into the waterway next to an old bridge where the audience was standing. Accompanied by an audio sound track comprised of an edited variety of sounds produced by everyday human activities, I screamed repeatedly, encouraging all the birds to land on public surfaces. After about five minutes I was approached by a Boston Harbor Police vessel, who announced their intention to arrest me for this not-permitted activity. After I argued with them about how the water surface comprises public space, they consulted with their superiors over the phone. After a while they told me that though my argument was perfectly accurate, they would have to arrest me anyway because my "boat" did not have a navigational instrument, such as a compass, wireless transmitter, etc. At that moment the audience members standing on the bridge started to support my case by chanting and clapping hands. The police officers, who until then were not aware of anybody witnessing the performance, again contacted their superiors. After a few moments of discussion, the vessel withdrew, letting me continue. The unplanned circumstances of this performance created a balance between the power of private ownership and the interests of general public.

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