Black Mayonnaise and Bio-Mutants. 2020-2021. scrap copper and steel, wire, paper, canal water, glass, live plants, acrylic paint.
Situated within the Skirt, Ortega Y Gasset Projects' dedicated space for site-specific installations, Black Mayonnaise and Bio-Mutants is a reliquary for toxic waste and chemical mutagens. Just across the street from the gallery, the Gowanus Canal is a symphonic stink of innumerable putrefactions. An EPA Superfund site, the canal has been designated a dangerously polluted hazard of national priority. Government proposals to decontaminate the poisonous waters are expensive and brusque: remove the toxic sediment, bury it in a landfill, and repave the canal bed with fresh concrete. The cleanup plans will rollout this year (2021), dredging the two miles of septic debris – a deadly concoction of coal tar, lead paint, mercury, and raw sewage.
Responding to environmental catastrophes such as this via a perverse and eco-feminist lens, Black Mayonnaise reassesses both the anthropocentric responsibility and the human-centric solutions. Indeed, the canal has already devised its own methods of remediation. Entirely new life forms have evolved and adapted to these waters, consuming our excrement and refuse and slowly creating for themselves a healthy and habitable environment. Black Mayonnaise and Bio-Mutants is an aesthetic shrine to the tenacity of microorganisms, to their accountability and stewardship. It is likewise a visual and aural timeline of the historical events that brought the canal to its toxic present. Chronicle tags line the installation with descriptions of fundamental moments in the canal's history, beginning with the Dutch colonization of Lenape land to establish oyster farms in the marshlands of Long Island.