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"Shifting Sites: The Brewster Project and the Plight of Place"
Nuit Banai
PAJ 72: A Journal of Performance and Art , (2002), pp. 56-67.

 

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Selection from pages 64-65 of PAJ 72 (2002):

    "Peter Walsh’s performance piece, New Croton Aqueduct Water Flow Reversal Plan, also dealt with the significance of community, but expanded it beyond Brewster’s borders to suggest that it is a pressing national and universal concern with political implications. Walsh, invited by Gugelberger, invented a fake public water project in which the water flow from Brewster to New York would be reversed. His performance was a self-proclaimed “thanking project” for the people of Brewster, an acknowledgement that the province has been supporting New York City since Brewster water began flowing downstream with the construction of the Croton Reservoir System. The building of eleven dams and reservoirs on the Croton River by New York city’s Department of Environmental Protection at the turn of the century meant that arable land was flooded and properties were condemned in order to guard the quality of the watershed. As a result, 25% of the population, approximately 200 households, left the land, and of those who remained many became resentful of the NYC-orchestrated incursion. Dressed like a politician, Walsh set up an activist table in front of the Southeast Museum and distributed bilingual pamphlets explaining the project to the public. In addition, he brought tap water from his home in Brooklyn which he gave out, at no cost. The irony, of course, is that this water originated from the Croton Reservoir System but cannot be drunk by local residents, since New York City owns it. In effect, Walsh acknowledged that New York City controls Brewster, materially restricting the life of its residents; Brewster provides it with the water it needs, enhancing life in the metropolis. In this performance, water essentially becomes a metaphor for the faceless flow of capital that dictates the life and fate of individuals in the sphere of the everyday. By reversing the flow and turning ostensibly “natural” power relations topsy-turvy, Walsh is recognizing that small communities and individuals need to reclaim their power through radical means. And the best way to achieve it, Walsh suggests, is by a Situationist détournement of the capitalist power structure, a creative appropriation and reorganization of pre-existing elements to critique the status quo."


All Content Peter Walsh 2006
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