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Monday, December 9, 2013

Natalie Jeremijenko: Women who talks to fish

Four years ago, the Australian-born artist Natalie Jeremijenko stood at the edge of Pier 35 in Downtown Manhattan, trying to start a conversation with some striped bass. Just north of the Manhattan Bridge, she and several collaborators dropped 16 tall buoys into the East River. The buoys were fitted with submersible sensors that monitored water quality and with LEDs that flashed when fish swam by, charting the Piscean passage. “I fell into the river four times installing it,” Jeremijenko recalls. “You have no idea, just standing on land, how ferocious those currents are!”

The installation, “Amphibious Architecture,” devised with the architect David Benjamin, stayed in the river for several months — a miniature skyline bobbing and blinking in the reflected glare of the real thing. With the piece, Jeremijenko was interested, she said, in “highlighting what’s under this pretty reflective surface that enhances real estate value but is actually a diverse, teeming habitat.” Viewers on land alerted to the presence of fish could send them text messages care of an SMS number. The fish then “responded” with texts of their own, chatting about themselves and their surroundings: “Hey there! There are 11 of us, and it’s pretty nice down here. I mean, Dissolved oxygen is higher than last week. . . .”

At New York University, where she is a professor of visual art, Jeremijenko had developed seaweed bars containing a PCB-chelating agent that observers were encouraged to hurl into the river — food meant to help rid the fish, and by extension, the water, of toxins. This snack was formulated to taste “delicious” to fish and humans alike: if you were feeling peckish, you could have what they were having. “It’s a very visceral way of demonstrating that we share the same natural resources, we eat the same stuff,” she once explained. “They’re not inhabiting a different world.”

Read the whole five page story in the New York Times

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