Gulf Oil Spill Performance Art

The Bridge

Josephine on Bridge

Josephine letting go of the piece in its last moments on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Photo by Evan Leed

Performing- Jesse Phillips-Fein

first, i want to acknowledge that people in many cultures and countries carry far larger and heavier objects on their heads, for much longer than 2 hours, in harsher climates, environments and circumstances, than times sq.  but there was something about the trickiness of it that surprised me.  and then how quickly my body learned to do it, the nerves and muscles adjusting into a balancing that vibrated after the hours were done and i had gone on to other things.  

Jesse Performs

i loved listening to my body do this work, this learning, this adaptation, my focus simultaneously in and out.

out, out to the “audience”, who swelled around us, a tide of humanity.  what i felt so strongly was their fabric, stitched together, out of different colors, geographies, genders, workers in suits or uniforms, tourists and natives, older, younger.  people who asked “what’s this?” “i could do that with my eyes closed”  “i don’t get it” “it’s the oil spill”  people who stopped and watched, people who turned away, people who rushed by, or through, or held my gaze, or tried to make me laugh, or did make me laugh.  

the eyes of children were my favorite, their curiosity. i loved watching them slow down.

i loved all of us slowing down.  i felt a deep humanity surge beneath the pain of times sq that has always choked me.  the advertisements, glittery, flashing, didn’t distract me. the noise, traffic, throngs of bodies, no longer pressed in, threatening to stamp out any softness, any connection between us.

our photos taken over and over, i felt how my image is separate from me, that i exist in hundreds of phones and cameras, in computers, in media, mediated.  and all that i know about me, my life, my history, stories, is not present in those moments, caught, belonging to people who’s lives, histories, stories, i’ll never know.

and yes, the oil spill.  the inevitable of spill.  the weight of what we are doing with our consumption.  the grace in what is ugly.  the hope that we can not destroy our world.  or each other.  the hope that art can be part of helping us not ruin, be ruined.  the knowing of what is beautiful in human beings.  and sharing it, with you.

- Performer Jesse Phillips-Fein 

Performing- Colleen Wahl

Contact, ground, yield, roll, push,
One step at a time.

Moving ahead happens,
Going down to go forward,
Reaching up to stay balanced.

Continuity, verticality,
Gather center column: feet to head,
Small spiral.

Bucket balances,
My senses calm,
People watch.

Forgot what I look like
Experience what it feels like,
New York City cares.

- Performer Colleen Wahl

Thank you so unbelievably much to our brilliant photographer Lee Bob Black.

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