Mahicantuck, the original Lenape name of the Hudson River, translates as “the river that flows two ways,” a reference to the river’s unusually deep tidal estuary: at 153 miles, an oceanic pulse that can be felt all the way to Troy, New York. In this work, the uncanny doubleness of that name produces an impossible world where opposites meet and mingle promiscuously: past and present, surface and depth, luxury and poverty, pleasure and boredom. The life that teems in this double world of water and air presents both an alternative to as well as a mirror-image of the turbulent world that flows out of extractive capitalism. Here techno-optimistic fantasies of the future are shadowed by painful realities of a deeply flawed present and many cruel pasts. Luxury yachts and mammoth commercial vessels pass by tattered rafts bearing people hawking e-waste, underwater mini-gyms for the wealthy float beneath tankers carrying water to states hit by drought, advertisements proclaim the absurd obsessions of a distracted public: cryptocurrency, trips to Mars, plastic surgery; floating memorials remind us of atrocities past and present: slavery, genocide, species extinction, 9/11.
By turning the poetic Lenape original into a question, this work invites reflection on reciprocity and responsiveness, casting a skeptical eye on capitalist claims that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” At the same time, by invoking the idea of mutuality and free exchange, the work also affirms the boundless potential of planetary forces and living species to generate new worlds of multi-species thriving. Along the flows of the waterway, social and biological assemblages form and dissolve; fish flock; shad run, oysters reef; whales foray and humans invent and sample endless watery pleasures.
Does the River Flow Both Ways? generates its dynamic composition in response to algorithmic probability, and responds to the real-time weather and tide data of Hudson River estuary. When it’s raining in New York City, it’s raining in here.
CLIPS (VIDEO CAPTURES):
Does the River Flow Both Ways? (2022) – July daytime, Pt 1 and 2
Does the River Flow Both Ways? (2022) – July nighttime, Pt 1 and 2
Does the River Flow Both Ways? (2022) – January daytime, Pt 1 and 2
Does the River Flow Both Ways? (2022) – January nighttime, Pt 1 and 2