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Thursday, June 8 • 5:00pm - Saturday, June 10 • 7:00pm
Open Water

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This participatory project demonstration / artwork explores the complex, extractive relationship we have to urban waterways and the situated politics of open water swimming. My project will include an interactive installation with photography, audio, and video components as well as a pop up oral history and counter-mapping station. HASTAC conference attendees will be invited to anonymously contribute to an ongoing conversation about land use, water access, urban ecology, flooding, and swimming.

Open Water is a public art and research project that began as part of the NEA funded Works on Water Program in spring 2022. An initial iteration of the project focused on two communities--Red Hook residents and Brooklyn-based swimmers--and two tidal waterways in Lenapehoking, one swimmable and the other unswimmable (as defined by the NYC Health Code assessment criteria published in the 2021 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan). My goal was to create a space for conversations about water that include the perspectives of people who swim, who can’t swim (or were unable to swim during COVID), who have survived floods, who are interested in the 2021 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan and what it means for their community, who are interested in urban wildlife, and who have observed changes to local waterways and waterfronts introduced by climate crises, industrial pollution, and land use changes.
Between March and June 2022, I conducted oral histories and facilitated counter-mapping activities and somatic shoreline encounters in collaboration with the interdisciplinary artist andrea haenggi, one of my students from the New York City College of Technology, a group of open water swimmers, and Red Hook residents. Through these experiences, we generated alternative criteria for assessing what makes a body of water swimmable; the culmination of the project was an embodied shoreline assessment and group solstice swim at Brighton Beach. Our community swimmability assessment references and exposes gaps in the 2021 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan and considers the conditions of post-industrial and ecologically disturbed waterways as well as racial and economic disparities in swimming education and water access.

Central questions at the heart of this project include:
  • Who has access to urban waterways during a time when coastlines are increasingly privatized and physically inaccessible?
  • How have climate change, ecological degradation, and flooding events impacted people’s relationships with urban waterways and perspectives on coastal development?
  • What ecological, economic, cultural, physiological, and political factors influence who swims, who can swim, where we swim, and when we swim?
  • Does open water swimming, as an embodied research methodology, influence our relationship to urban waterways and knowledge of marine ecology?
  • Can open site specific field work and oral histories produce “data” that impacts political and ecological futures?
This project demonstration / installation at HASTAC will provide context for and serve as an invitation for conference attendees to respond to components of the 2021 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan and share personal water and swimming histories.

Pop-up Oral History and Counter-Mapping Station Concept
Conference participants will be invited to contribute to the Open Water oral history archive and annotate a large map. At the end of the conference, the map will capture what waterways people see most often, interact with, have ecological concerns about, or participate in community stewardship activities around. Ideally, this pop-up and accompanying installation will be accessible for the duration of the conference.
Installation Components

The multimedia installation will include: photographs, a listening station with audio collages compiled from oral histories conducted with Red Hook residents and urban swimmers, excerpts from the 2021 NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, ephemera, and excepted video footage from facilitated somatic shoreline encounters in Red Hook and Brighton Beach.

avatar for Nora Almeida

Nora Almeida

Instruction and Outreach Librarian, New York City College of Technology (CUNY)
Nora Almeida is an urban swimmer, writer, performance artist, librarian, and environmental activist. She’s an Associate Professor at the New York City College of Technology and a long-time volunteer at Interference Archive. She has organized media-making workshops, public events... Read More →

Thursday June 8, 2023 5:00pm - Saturday June 10, 2023 7:00pm EDT
Student Union 191 Grand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205, USA