Seven Disappearances

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Margaret Bellafiore

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Margaret Bellafiore

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Jason Purdy

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Margaret Bellafiore

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

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Seven Disappearances
durational performance on Spectacle Island, Boston
August 2015
photo by Nabeela Vega

We are sitting atop the remains of previous generations. What survives? What disappears? What changes?

event:
Time Space Body Object, Spectacle Island, MA - Part 4
venue:
Spectacle Island
location:
Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, USA
sponsor:
Isles Art Initiative 2015
date:
August 2015

Project Notes:

Before Spectacle Island became part of the Boston Harbor Islands national park, it had a long history of other use, including farming, resort hotels, a horse rendering factory for making glue, and a City of Boston garbage dump.  In fact, its size and shape now are the result of decades of garbage as well dirt excavated to build the tunnels under Boston during The Big Dig.  After shaping the drumlins and doing extensive landscaping, adding paths, grass, flowers, bushes and trees, the park was open to the public in 2006.

On the sunny, sweltering 95°F+ day of the performances, I established myself in the morning at a picnic table under one of the gazebos overlooking the harbor.

I placed a blue burlap cloth over the table, lined up the globes of ice, as well as the other materials that I had brought, in order to start making everything disappear over the course of the seven hours of the performance.

This performance entails seven demonstrations of the transformation of materials.  I initially thought that each act of disappearance would take one hour, but materials have their own sense of time, and so the activities in fact overlapped.

The seven disappearances were:

  • Ice balls melting.
  • The water evaporating.
  • Our memories of a joke from the joke book that we were to tell others later off-island, tearing out the page and pounding it with water into paper pulp.
  • Eating the snacks that I had brought.
  • Cutting up a plastic spoon and plate into tiny pieces.
  • Grinding the unglazed terracotta plate to dust.
  • Unraveling the burlap tablecloth into threads.

As people in the park walked by, I invited them to join me in making things disappear.  As they assisted me in the activities, we talked about the history of the island and recycling, and about the transformation of materials.

The audience and I took turns reading out loud from the Handbook of Recycling: State-of-the-art for Practitioners, Analysts, and Scientists, by Ernst Worrell and Markus A. Reuter, as well as from Rot and Decay: Decomposing and Recycling, by Sarah Levete.  Topics read included how many tons of materials people consume each year, how discarded materials are mined, the management of landfills, how used clothing is rated, and the complications of recycling mattresses.

While the topic was serious, the actions and conversation were more playful, as was befitting a day in the park.

Nevertheless, what we did learn was that, in fact, nothing really disappears.