liminal: powered by newton creek (by Dan Carlson)

Dan Carlson Writes:

Over a span of 100 years (and including the largest oil spill in American history*), in excess of 30 million gallons of oil has leaked into Newtown Creek, a 3.5 mile long body of water that forms the border between North Brooklyn and Long Island City. The “soft- bottom” that remains to this day is a 5 to 10-foot thick layer of immensely viscous sludge composed of petroleum, raw sewage, heavy metals, and decaying organic matter, which hovers above the “hard-bottom” of Newtown Creek. After the E.P.A. instituted an investigation of the primary parties responsible for the notorious spill and the designation of the creek as a Superfund site, the existing oil marinating in the water is referred to as “free-product.”

For this project, 10 gallons of sludge was harvested from Newtown Creek with a 25-foot long manual bilge pump attached to a canoe. It was then refined using a waste-oil processor equipped with dual-pole polymer filtration beads that absorb any material that is not petroleum-based. The resulting product was poured into a 3 kW diesel generator that provided power for a handmade, back-lit billboard that read “Powered by Newtown Creek” and functioned as a temporary public installation near the East River entrance to the creek in April of 2010. The billboard, generator, and video documentation were shown as artifacts of this engagement at The Kitchen the following June.

*at the time the project was completed (one month later the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico)