Across the street from my doctor’s office in Plainfield, NJ is this Japanese-style house. The houses surrounding it are standard suburban fare, white picket fences and so forth.
And this asymmetrical Buddhist shrine on the front lawn.
Yesterday I met with Ben at Gowanus Studio Space to discuss a shrine/boat building workshop I will likely lead this summer. (This would be my contribution to Sea Worthy, a boat festival organized by GSS, Flux Factory, and EFA Project Space.) There are people at GSS who are experienced in making and repairing boats and are generous enough to share that knowledge. They also have tons of scrap materials!
Some background: In 2008, I built a network of shrines dedicated to the drainage system near my studio at the time, and then lead public tours. I want to invert this idea of pilgrimage by building a shrine into a boat, which would then visit sites on the Gowanus River. A traveling shrine.
I sent Ben this image and statement today, fleshing out the idea of what the workshop might be like and what would come out of it. The image is a Photoshop collage.
This project will consist of the construction of shrines dedicated to the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal.
In a public workshop at the Gowanus Studio Space, participants will convert a boat into a mobile shrine, which will travel on the canal. The shrine will be constructed primarily from scrap material. Participants will also each make a miniature shrine. These will be installed at locations along the bank of the canal during the boat-shrine’s maiden voyage. Workshop participants will also have the option of designing a ceremony, which might consist of symbolic gestures as well as remediatory actions. The remediation might consist of collecting debris from shrine sites or planting plants that absorb toxic elements in the water. During July and August, there may be repeat voyages, depending on interest. Ideally the shrines will grow and accumulate over repeated visits.
The shrines will function as focal points in the landscape. The main mobile shrine inverts the idea of a pilgrimage: the shrine itself travels to various sites, not just the pilgrims. I intend this workshop and pilgrimage to be an experience during which viewers are given the opportunity to try out an animistic understanding of the landscape and an alternate way of engaging their immediate surroundings.