What I Have Lived For? Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

 I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

 Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer. This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

- The Prologue to Bertrand Russell's Autobiography




04.23.2020 - Covid Diary - Earth Day 2020

Whether the oceans accumulated gradually over millions of years from the escaping vapors of molten rocks that comprised the Earth’s crust and clung to a proto-atmosphere surrounding the cooling planet, or whether millions of celestial comets breached the frost line during a time of interplanetary collision, their icy planetesimals (flung by the force of trans-Neptunian objects) blasting, dividing, and melting - or by divining - the moon Did form, fixing the earth’s gravitational field, and the rain Did come. The earth as protoplanet attracted typhoons of nebula gases and built a distended compositional atmosphere. ‘A steam atmosphere’ by name, formed by impact degassing from Earth-building planetesimals. Gravitational pull prevented hydrogen from leaving the planet and the protoatmospheric layer lingered, the runaway greenhouse effect was no more a match for the metamorphosing vaporous-shield, the mist, cloud, rain, hail, snow, sleet, although lighter elements like hydrogen and helium (atomic numbers 1 and 2) would continue to seep from the atmosphere into the space of cosmic disarray.

Over time, seas did form, the Neptunian violence in abyssal seaquakes, alluvian cascades, deluges, outpourings, eruptions, torrents, tourbillions, eddies, seismic spates: They swelled, spit, shuddered and surged, Through speculative readings of isotopic ratios of the heavier noble gasses, science accepted that the protoplanetary earth had lost at least one ocean of water between the Hadean and Archean eras. Approximately 400 million years ago the evaporation of a shallow sea resulted in the accumulation of hundreds of meters of sodium chloride (atomic number 11) in the area now most often referred to as New York.

04.22.2020 - Covid Diary

04.18.2020 - Covid Diary

The boulder always wins: Another story collage where the boulder wins

04.16.2020 - Covid Diary

There were two moons and one was in my I, i didn't know what to do, eye had to make something.

04.15.2020 - Covid Diary

weeping, winding, lunatic tideflows

04.12.2020 - Covid Diary

A para-noid still life:

04.08.2020 - Covid Diary

The Covid Diary started because Etty Yaniv asked me to write something for her interview series. Prior to that, I barely got out of bed.

Artists on Coping: Mary Mattingly

During the coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

SwaleConcrete Plant Park 2018, Photo: Subhram Reddy

Mary Mattingly works with photography and sculpture. She is currently artist in residence at the Brooklyn Public Library. In 2016, she founded Swale, an edible landscape on a barge to circumvent New York City’s public land laws, and in 2018 dismantled a military vehicle and deconstructed its mineral supply chain with BRIC Arts.  Her work has been exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Storm King, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Palais de Tokyo. It has been featured in Artforum, The New York Times, Le Monde, New Yorker, NPR, Art21, and included in books such as MIT Press Documents of Contemporary Art, and Henry Sayre’s A World of Art.

AS: How are you coping?

MM: Thinking about Adrienne Rich’s “Tonight No Poetry Will Serve”. Wishing I had a better story about my studio days as of late, but living with an autoimmune condition, I began obsessively social distancing after returning from a trip early March, and these last few weeks have been filled with health issues and concern. For someone who tends to focus on materializing the imaginary, moments over the past few weeks have ranged from the overly hypnagogic to the paranoid. Early March, days before people started entering hospitals in the US with Covid-19 I was scheduled for an emergency surgery (scar tissue adhesions from a previous operation had made it impossible to eat without getting sick).

A week of doctor visits and laparoscopic session behind me, I arrived to Mt. Sinai for the final surgery and while in the lobby received a call from the surgeon urging me to postpone for safety reasons, which would mean I would continue a liquid diet until I could be safely operated on. Mt. Sinai’s lobby was predictably chaotic but the large mezzanine was quiet with a long line of people standing apart, their heads covered in bags. In hindsight, this was before doctors had as much of an understanding of the virus as they do now. However, already panicked, I left the hospital to witness the national guard stands that seemed to have sprung up during the minutes I was inside, and at that moment feeling helplessly sick I involuntarily entered fight or flight mode and retreated from NYC, heading early and circuitously towards a job site on Shelter Island, dragging my partner (who is between jobs) with me. I spent another week just getting acclimated to living off liquids.

AS: Has your routine changed?

MM: Drastically, and surreally. I uprooted without much of a plan because I felt like that was my only option for healing. Here, I’m able to develop a commission, a land-based “color field” with tonal gradations in plants and flower buds, while living on the property for two more weeks. I focus on how specific plantings play off the sun to produce sensorial tricks between sunrise and sunset.

Here, I wake up and photograph the strange still lives I worked on the night before (no matter how much I like them or not the next day) cultivate the land all day, and then compile the still lives in the bathroom in the late evening. I fall asleep early. Focused on wild worlds of plants, insects, and land, I crave more social interaction and miss the studio.

Self Portrait Upon Arrival (Temporary Studio in the Background) Next to Portrait of Jason Reading Today (Eager for Home), 2020

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

MM: I’m very concerned about the lack of a safety net in this country, and for people who have lost their jobs. Personally, I feel vulnerable and grateful. I feel grateful to be here, with this time to focus on this project. And fortunate to be on a health insurance plan that I don’t have to be concerned about losing, as jobs I had are put on hold or speaking engagements rescheduled for the future. I also feel appreciation: for the art communities in NYC and around the world, resource sharing networks, the caring strangers have shown, and on another level I’m appreciating watching the seeds sprout, leaves unfurl, and the first flowers bloom. Partaking in this brief exchange with the plants, weather, soil, and insects. I’m continually thinking about health and co-existence.

Core (during Night of Philosophy and Ideas at the Brooklyn Public Library), 2020 Photo: Kat Kiefert

AS: What matters most right now?

MM: Being able to work and bring ideas to fruition with healthy mind and body, and being with our loved ones in whichever ways we can. Helping relieve people who need assistance: people with necessary jobs, people who are too fragile to get their own groceries. Re-focusing on enlarging the safety nets, however possible.

Between Bears Ears and Daneros Mine, 2018

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

MM: I tend to think abstractly and big-picture about futures, but not in my own life. There is still so much that is unknown. “Swale” should be up and running again, and an “Ecotopian Library” should expand and travel from Boulder to Anchorage and Hudson. I’ll be sculpting the land here for the next two weeks, and then will go back home for the surgery, rescheduled for April. After, I’ll be healthy enough to help my neighbors in Gowanus, many who are older and aren’t going out to get groceries on their own.

Soil Stories (from the Ecotopian Library), 2020 Photo: Jeff Wells

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Emailartspielblog@gmail.com




Most immediately, photography to me is a record of a moment that has been able to enter a physical realm; a construction, fiction, fabrication, or truth, it represents what was (seen or unseen). It's a memory of, and an elemental story. I need it as it is a lens with which I can create worlds. Upon closer examination, photography connects me to complexities and contradictions of a life largely removed from the supply chains that make it up: full of toxicities that I usually do not readily see but may feel the aftermath of, the health impacts of, and the connection it has to mapping, colonization, militarization, and security. The medium slides precariously in and out of ethical arguments for and against: it at once can illuminate social injustices while simultaneously exaggerating them. (-What Is Photography?)


For the past two years I've been able to delve into the Mystic Seaport Museum's collection to build an exhibition. I found myself drawn to the High Seas and its history as a global commons without enough oversight. I also wanted to explore what it means today.

Some photos from Open Ocean at the Mystic Seaport Museum, taken by Krystal Rose.


I've been working on this drawing on NYC's energy inputs for the past month. We just finished installing it at the Ace Hotel thanks to Katharina Kiefert! This drawing maps the complex and decentralized production system for New York City’s electrical energy inputs. These connections and circuitous routesare continually changing as world markets and political situations fluctuate. The drawing references the impermanence of a chalkboard to imply the energy economy’s fluctuations: based on markets, policy, and votes. This drawing just touches on the global supply chain of the physical equipment carrying energy in these systems. Iron Ore is mined worldwide, and other common minerals or rare earths are mined wherever it’s most affordable to mine at the time. Currently, minerals used in battery technology to retain excess in power systems are being extracted plentifully from Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Most of the energy that New Yorkers use comes from natural gas or petroleum. 1/3rd is obtained from nuclear sources, and about 20% is obtained from the 180 hydroelectric facilities in and around the state. Wind generates 2% of the city’s energy, while solar and renewables like biomass generate about 2%. Coal generates less than 1%. As I write this, New York City is setting new standards for buildings: by 2024, buildings will be required to meet emissions limits or face expensive fines.
New York State’s Clean Energy Standard was revised this year to require 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. The US Energy Information Administration claims 29% of New York’s in-state generation at both large- and small-scale facilities comes from renewable sources. Distilling and abstracting through mapping has been essential to the way many people see and make sense of our impact in a complex, plural world.

It took 23 hours of projector and computer use to trace the drawing onto the wall. Here's Kat photographing on the final night at the Ace, getting it done:


Stormy Weather opened at Museum Arnhem in the Netherlands: https://www.museumarnhem.nl/tentoonstellingen/stormy-weather/


On May 21 Marion Wilson will be in conversation with Robin Wall Kimmerer at Union, a project Jessica Segall and I started in our studio.

Link to



This project is finally complete! It's part of NYC's permanent collection, on display at PS62, a new school designed by SOM in Staten Island.
Flock House is a permanent sculpture by Mary Mattingly through NYC's Percent for Art Program


In small victories it has been six years and I haven't purchased any new tech. Going for ten.





BRIC Brooklyn What Happens After involved transforming a military truck into a stage, workshopped by performance artists and led by Mary Mattingly.

BRIC - What Happens After - Download Fold-out


Swale and Urban Field Stations: NYC and NYS Parks "Art, Data, and Ecology at New York State Field Stations" and Pratt Institute "A Network of Urban Field Stations in the City" documents


Robert Mann Gallery opening!

People sent me these pictures after the opening. It meant a lot to me that see new friends and old could come celebrate this exhibition with me!



It has been a month in paradise at the Rauschenberg Foundation. I'm so grateful.


Preparing for this to open!


On average, 3-500 potential and active stewards visit @swaleny each day. We ask them to ask 5 friends to participate in a local EJ org


This past week I went to Columbus, Ohio


NY Times 360 on Swale!


In every way, shape, and form, we are at war. This Manifesto proclaims that art and utopian thought can cultivate systemic social change. Art can transform people’s perceptions about value, and collective art forms can reframe predominant ideologies.
1. A Violent Economic Order:
From the supply chain to the landfill, if our systems of production, trade, and consumption use the social and ecological space of others, it is a form of violence.
(Art and) A Nonviolent Economic Order:
Make all works of art without participating in economies of violence. Boycott so-called Free Trade, companies that participate in slave labor, or militia-managed extraction. Demand fair wages on behalf of silenced workers and build informal, cross-border supply chains within interdependent Art World networks.
2. A Violent Political Order:
Since supplying social services interferes with the military industrial power structure, military spending in the U.S. will continue to dominate and define the political order, and the US will continue making war in perpetuity.
(Art and) A Nonviolent Political Order:
Imagine and realize the replacement of war economies, war propaganda, and dominant strategies that oppress. Strengthen an understanding that a military approach fuels arms races, human rights abuses, and weakens economically hallowed-out States. Use social capital to transform multinational governing bodies like the *U.N. to be fair.
3. A Violent Education:
The business of education and compartmentalized forms of learning best serves the people we work for, and those that they work for. With steady erosion of job security, it leaves us dependent while increasing their control.
(Art and) A Nonviolent Education:
Share underrepresented histories. Expand school curriculums and individual classes to include mutual education around nonviolence training towards active compassion. Flip the so-called script.

4. A violent ecological order:
As increased desertification, land degradation, and water privatization continue to fuel global wars through droughts, famine, and resulting forced migration, investors trade in weather derivatives and reinsurance, profiting from ecological disasters.
(Art and) A Nonviolent Ecological Order:
Work towards worlds where humans serve as caretakers and stewards rather than private owners. Help to recognize the reciprocity of commons and indigenous rights to land, while protecting it from being sold off. Help to disempower the word “own”.
5. A Violent Social Order:
Collective traumas are known to change our collective sense of what is possible.
(Art and) A Nonviolent Social Order:
Reset the dial by working together on utopian projects. Be a transgressor and an empathic lover. Promote difference not indifference. Remember that we have bigger battles to fight than those we may want to fight against each other.
6. Working Towards a Nonviolent Art.
How can we dedicate ourselves to living nonviolently, today? This is not an ambitious question - it’s an essential one. In art and life, create flexible and inclusive schemes for living that encompass respect, non-hierarchy, nonviolence, and tolerance. Art making is powerful; and a nonviolent art is a duty. 2015 (excerpt)



folly -
folly for to -
for to -
what is the word -
folly from this -
all this -
folly from all this -
given -
folly given all this -
seeing -
folly seeing all this -
this -
what is the word -
this this -
this this here -
all this this here -
folly given all this -
seeing -
folly seeing all this this here -
for to -
what is the word -
see -
glimpse -
seem to glimpse -
need to seem to glimpse -
folly for to need to seem to glimpse -
what -
what is the word -
and where -
folly for to need to seem to glimpse what where -
where -
what is the word -
there -
over there -
away over there -
afar -
afar away over there -
afaint -
afaint afar away over there what -
what -
what is the word -
seeing all this -
all this this -
all this this here -
folly for to see what -
glimpse -
seem to glimpse -
need to seem to glimpse -
afaint afar away over there what -
folly for to need to seem to glimpse afaint afar away over there what -
what -
what is the word -

what is the word

-Samuel Beckett


“My mother always taught us that if people don’t agree with you, the important thing is to listen to them. But if you’ve listened to them carefully and you still think that you’re right, then you must have the courage of your convictions.”-Jane Goodall


just found

SmartPower - Manila, The Philippines



There is no sovereignty without food sovereignty – John Mohawk, Six Nations Elder


Just saw this article by Artsy - I'm in residence at Monet's Garden now
Seeing Swale and Monet's Garden in the same article -wow


Jacques Majorelle

A heart condition drove French painter Majorelle to the warmer climes of Morocco, where he finally settled in a home just outside Marrakech in 1923. The artist built an Art Deco studio on his property, but it was the surrounding gardens that would become his life’s work. Majorelle spent four decades tending the land, often sourcing exotic plants from across the globe—some 300 species in total, from Texas’s agave cactus to China’s black bamboo. He also painted the walls of his studio with “Majorelle blue,” the brilliant color he trademarked in the 1930s, its hue inspired by Moroccan tiles.

Following a car accident, Majorelle was forced to return to Paris in 1962 and died months later. His magnificent garden fell into disrepair, and by 1980 it was slated for redevelopment—that is, until Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé stepped in. The pair purchased the property and restored Jardin Majorelle to its former glory for the 700,000 people who now visit each year.

Robert Irwin

Although Irwin began his artistic career as an Abstract Expressionist painter, he soon became a member of the California Light and Space movement. Then, he gave up making objects at all, instead tackling projects like a revamp of the Miami Airport and a design for the Getty’s Central Garden. It was Irwin’s first garden, and to prepare, he bought roughly a thousand dollars worth of horticultural books and cut them up for a preparatory collage.

The final garden design (developed alongside the Getty Center’s discerning architect, Richard Meier) features a winding stream that cascades down the hillside into a bougainvillea-shaded plaza, eventually collecting in a pool topped with a floating azalea maze. Despite Los Angeles’s year-round temperate weather, Irwin’s creation was intended to be seasonal; it featured deciduous trees and more than 500 plant varieties. “There’s no palette as rich as a garden,” Irwin mused on the 10th anniversary of his creation.

Frida Kahlo

In photographs and self-portraits, Kahlo’s hair often resembles a miniature flowerbed in its own right. The blooms threaded through her braids were likely sourced from her walled garden at Casa Azul, the house where Kahlo was born in 1907 and died in 1954. Alongside flowers, the artist cultivated fruit trees—orange, apricot, and pomegranate—and plants native to her beloved Mexico, including prickly pear and agave. She further emphasized her nationalist ideology through a miniature Aztec-inspired pyramid, designed with her husband Diego Rivera, that still stands amidst the vegetation. The couple even used a traditional Mexican pigment to paint the surrounding walls a vivid indigo.

Sol LeWitt

It took nearly three decades, but LeWitt’s design for a garden in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park was finally realized in 2012 (the artist himself had died five years earlier). Although the medium was plants in soil rather than paint or pencil on the wall, Lines in Four Directions in Flowers echoed the geometric compositions of the conceptual artist’s signature wall drawings. As with most of his works, LeWitt laid out the design but left the rest up to others—in this case, he specified a botanist to select plant species and a gardener to maintain the grounds. Each of the four quadrants were planted with a series of perennials that would bloom in the specified color, including peachleaf bellflowers for white, yarrow for yellow, cardinal flowers for red, and Russian sage for blue.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny. Image © Francis Hammond, from A Day with Claude Monet in Giverny, by Adrien Goetz. Courtesy of Flammarion, 2017.

“I perhaps owe it to flowers that I became a painter,” Monet once said. And certainly, no discussion of artists and gardens would be complete without the noted Impressionist, whose grounds at Giverny have become a legend in their own right. Monet moved there in 1883, enlisting the help of his family and six gardeners to fashion a living masterpiece. From vivid beds of irises and chrysanthemums to the Japanese-inspired water garden, each tableau was designed to be painted—and they were, on canvases that have since become some of Monet’s most famous works.

The artist was deeply invested in horticulture and devoured the gardening journals and books of the time. His now-iconic water lilies were actually a hybrid species, developed by a French plant breeder and displayed at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where Monet spotted them in 1889.

Adam Purple

When Purple looked out the window of his Lower East Side tenement building, he saw kids playing in garbage and thought, “That’s a hell of a way to raise children, with no place to, you know, put your feet on the dirt.” So, in 1975, he began clearing debris that had accumulated on two nearby lots to make space for what became his “Garden of Eden.” Its circular design, with rings of vegetables and fruit trees surrounding a central yin-yang symbol, was based on that of a 19th-century utopian city planner. At its peak, the garden would span five city lots and cover 15,000 square feet, attracting the attention of National Geographic and other publications.

Although Purple (whose given name was David Wilkie) had no formal training in the arts, he considered himself an environmental sculptor, and his garden, which elicited comparisons to the work of Robert Smithson and Agnes Denes, his masterwork. But it was gone in less than a decade. Despite the efforts of Purple and his supporters, the city razed the garden in 1986 to make way for a new housing development.

Emil Nolde

It was at Seebüll that painter Nolde and his wife, Ada, put down their strongest roots. The house, located in northern Germany, would be the German Expressionist painter’s residence from 1927 until his death in 1956. It wasn’t an easy place to grow a garden—they had to mix sand and peat into the existing soil to make it more hospitable for plant life. Later, they built a reed fence to protect their shrubs from the harsh winds. But the end result was lovely, even featuring a path through the flowerbeds in the shape of the couple’s initials.

Nolde once said, “The color of the flowers drew me magnetically to them,” and all through his life he painted the blossoms filling his gardens: scarlet poppies, golden sunflowers, pure white lilies. The lush grounds at Seebüll concealed a darker truth, however. Despite his support for the National Socialists, Nolde was classified as a degenerate artist in the 1930s and all but banned from painting by the Nazi regime.

Mary Mattingly

Mattingly’s garden—a “food forest” where visitors can forage for anything from blueberries to collard greens—is a novelty in New York City, where public parks are prohibited from growing edible plants for people to consume. That’s why the New York-based artist planted her crops on board Swale, a 5,000-square-foot barge currently floating in the East River. Now in its second year, the interactive public artwork highlights the city’s policies and exemplifies how park-based urban farming could combat food deserts. Mattingly herself is working actively to change the rules, by meeting regularly with the Parks Department and other city organizations. For now, Swale will dock in both Brooklyn and the Bronx over the summer—allowing New Yorkers free access to its perennial garden and fresh produce.


"What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire? Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean of Mercator's projection: its unplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8000 fathoms: the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea: its hydrostatic quiescence in calm: its hydrokinetic turgidity in neap and spring tides: its subsidence after devastation: its sterility in the circumpolar icecaps, arctic and antarctic: its climatic and commercial significance: its preponderance of 3 to 1 over the dry land of the globe: its indisputable hegemony extending in square leagues over all the region below the subequatorial tropic of Capricorn: the multisecular stability of its primeval basin: its luteofulvous bed: its capacity to dissolve and hold in solution all soluble substances including millions of tons of the most precious metals: its slow erosions of peninsulas and islands, its persistent formation of homothetic islands, peninsulas and downwardtending promontories: its alluvial deposits: its weight and volume and density: its imperturbability in lagoons and highland tarns: its gradation of colours in the torrid and temperate and frigid zones: its vehicular ramifications in continental lakecontained streams and confluent oceanflowing rivers with their tributaries and transoceanic currents, gulfstream, north and south equatorial courses: its violence in seaquakes, waterspouts, Artesian wells, eruptions, torrents, eddies, freshets, spates, groundswells, watersheds, waterpartings, geysers, cataracts, whirlpools, maelstroms, inundations, deluges, cloudbursts: its vast circumterrestrial ahorizontal curve: its secrecy in springs and latent humidity, revealed by rhabdomantic or hygrometric instruments and exemplified by the well by the hole in the wall at Ashtown gate, saturation of air, distillation of dew: the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation: its infallibility as paradigm and paragon: its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagos and sounds and fjords and minches and tidal estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, turbines, dynamos, electric power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora (anacoustic, photophobe), numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90 percent of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon.” -James Joyce


Swale was in PSFK today! LINK

Swale is trying to reframe food as a common good


Mary Mattingly grew up in an agricultural town in northern Connecticut where drinking water was polluted with pesticides like DDT throughout the 1980’s. Water was thus considered precious and had to be used carefully. These childhood experiences serve as part of the inspiration behind Swale, an NYC-based food initiative that Mattingly founded in 2016. Built on a 130-foot by 40-foot floating platform, Swale is an edible garden that’s open to the public throughout the summer, providing healthy, fresh produce for no charge.
Described by Mattingly as a “social sculpture” that’s ever-changing, Swale helps foster important conversations around food sovereignty—the right for communities to define their own food and agriculture systems—and hopes to reframe food and water as basic rights that ought to be protected. This is of particular pertinence in New York City, where as many as three million people live in food deserts with limited access to fresh produce. For its second summer, Swale has continued to collaborate with partners including the Bronx River Alliance and the New York City Parks Department to expand access to public food in the South Bronx.
City laws limit the ability to grow foods on public lands (in part a measure to control the look of public parks, though it’s also to protect the public from potentially dangerous growing practices) but Swale’s unique status as a floating barge helps it get around these restrictions. Due to its success, Mattingly says the Parks Department is becoming more open to similar food-based projects on land. We recently spoke with her to discuss what Swale will be up to this summer as it currently docks on Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park through June 30.

How did the decision to start Swale come about?

I had done a few different projects on the waterways in New York City before this and realized that the water was a space where you could do things that could not be done on land. The focus of Swale is to really address food forestry on New York City’s public lands and see if, in the future, New York City’s Parks Department would consider having edible landscaping be part of the landscaping of parks. It’s illegal currently, but we wanted to push the envelope with Swale and invite people on to be stewards, but also to pick fresh foods for free to lead by example and say, “We can care for our public parks in different ways.” The initiative came out of lots of different conversations, and also personal issues with food and water from my history, and knowing many people who are affected by food deserts. I was just trying to figure out different ways where we can collectively steward land and think about some of the space in New York City as potentially a commons to reframe food and water as a commons sphere.

You mention some of the legal issues that make it difficult to have a project like this on land; could you explain a bit more?

In New York City, there’s a destruction of property law that extends to public spaces and states that if anything is taken from public property then it’s destruction. That’s been a way for the city to control the look of public parks; the beauty that’s instigated by the official designers of the parks. Also, it’s important for them to consider pesticide use on plants, as well as education. They don’t want people picking something that’s potentially poisonous and thinking it’s not. There are all those issues. What we were trying to say is, “With those things in place, with continued co-education, with continued stewardship, we think that we can make this work.” And we need to make it work, because there are a hundred acres of community garden space in the city and 30,000 acres of park space, but there’s not enough fresh food.

Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.
@Swale Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo: Katharina Kiefert

How are you working to change that?

Over the past year, we’ve seen really good progress with the food forest conversation and the Parks Department. They are really willing to try it and they are ready to even break ground on it. The project has happened very fast. In the last six months, the Parks Department has decided to give this a try with enough stewards in a particular area. If it goes well they might try it in other places. We think that that’s a pretty giant breakthrough.

All of us would like for our food to be more sustainably grown, but the reality is that there are millions more mouths to feed than there is space in this city. How do you remedy that?

Urban food forests won’t feed a city like New York anytime soon. However, a multitude of different approaches that are closer to home are necessary if we are going to address the role of industrial farming in climate change, and also begin to heal from damage done to the environment, ourselves, and our neighbors through industrial forms of production that neglect human and environmental health. As a country, the United States has sped towards privatization of everything. So it is no wonder that movements towards food sovereignty and rebuilding common spaces continue to grow stronger. The ability to bridge understandings, communities and knowledge with social love and dignity are urgently needed in order to understand—and then part ways with—systemic social and environmental violence. Social love is itself a commons, and it is what moves us to devise larger strategies together to halt environmental degradation and to encourage care. It’s difficult to presume we can begin healing nature and the environment without, at the same time, being able to trust in our fundamental human relationships.

Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.
@Swale Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo: Katharina Kiefert

Where in the city do you dock? Do you tend to focus more on areas with a greater need for fresh produce?

We’re very flexible as to where we go in the city. We’ve only gone to docks that are public in New York City and they’ve been all over. They’re not always in high-needs areas. That’s intentional. I think that in order to spread the word and to get people engaged on different levels, our mission is to reach out, as much as possible, to people across the board from different backgrounds and with different experiences. It helps makes us more knowledgeable about what we’re doing and about the people who experience it.

Swale is totally free for everyone who comes to visit. Is there any limit to how much you could take or how often you can visit?

There is not a limit. It is completely free. It’s done that way in order to have conversations about stewardship, and how, “If one person came and picked all the food, what would happen? It wouldn’t exist for you next time and it wouldn’t exist for anyone next time.” We haven’t had a problem with being that open so far and we would love to continue to run it that way.
Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.
@Swale Ribbon Cutting. Photo: Katharina Kiefert

What sorts of produce do you typically have available?

That’s a really good question, because a lot if it’s not typical and a lot of it’s not annual. And the annual vegetables that we do have get picked pretty fast. We have a lot more perennial plants that are planted so that we have things that are always growing, even if they’re less typical and medicinal, or things that people would generally not go to the store for. This year, the Parks Department gave us a large gift of a lot of new plants. A lot of them I’m less familiar with, but our horticulturalist was very excited about. They have different edible and medicinal properties. We’re getting a lot more aster, beach plum, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, comfrey, and chokeberry. Comfrey I know is a medicinal. Chokeberry is a less common berry tree, but also really good for making jams. There are more typical things like grapes, blueberries, strawberries, that are perennials. There will be a lot more fruit trees this year, including more apple trees. Then there’s things like salt grass, which I’ve never tasted. We’re trying to find the perennial versions of the annuals that people love, so we don’t have to continually replant things.

What sort of impact have you seen from Swale in the year since you started it?

We’ve seen a lot of people interested in doing similar projects, which is what we had hoped for, either on land, or doing some sort of platform that could be similar to Swale. The biggest thing that we’ve seen is the development of the Foodway that will be at Concrete Plant Park [located on the west bank of the Bronx River.] That’s going to be the Parks Department’s first trial of doing the system on land. It’ll break ground this summer. We plan to go back to Concrete Plant Park with Swale mid-summer and meet the Parks Department’s initiative as they’re starting to break ground.

Is there any way for people to help out if they’re interested?

There’s definitely lots of opportunities for volunteering! Right now, we are an all-volunteer team, so we rely on those who want to work with us and steward, and help us continue to keep the gardens looking good. There’s more info on our website about that.




Two Weeks Left to Visit the Floating Forest in Brooklyn Heights
By Carrington Morris June 15, 2017
Swale pulls anchor from Pier 6 and heads for the Bronx July 1.

Last year, artist Mary Mattingly embarked on a bold idea: to draw New Yorkers’ attention to the idea of food as commons rather than commodity. She wanted us to take a look at our local food system and reconsider food as something not only to be shared among the public but to be grown and stewarded by the community in public spaces. Enter Swale: a barge that once shuttled sand to construction sites and that now harbors soil in its hold, yielding a food forest.

With 30,000 acres of public lands, New York City has ample space to provide its residents this opportunity. One problem. It’s against the law here to grow food on public land. The law, however, says nothing about growing food on public waters.

Described as a “human-made ecosystem,” a food forest takes its cue from nature and grows plants in mutually beneficial combination. The classic example of this is the Native American “three sisters,” where corn, squash and beans grow together; the corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen for the other crops and the squash give ground cover that prevents weeds and helps the soil retain moisture. Following this principle, Swale grows apple trees, herbs, shrubs, fruits and vegetables, together in symbiotic combination.

Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.
Dariella Rodriguez @ Swale. Photo: Katharina Kiefert

The business model for Swale likewise relies on symbiotic relationships for maximum sustainability of the project, partnering with schools, nonprofits, private companies and city agencies. Since it dropped anchor in Brooklyn in late April, the barge has hosted numerous class tours for schoolchildren, lectures and workshops for adults. And despite its obvious skirting of the law, Swale has received tremendous support from the city. With, among other things, the parks department providing funding for its next stop: Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx, where it will reside through September with a focus on foodways.

Until then, the good ship Swale can be found floating at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, open to the public to visit, forage, volunteer and learn through the end of June.


Swale's official ribbon cutting with NYC Parks, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Urban Field Station

NYC Department of Parks Ribbon Cutting at Swale. Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free. Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.

05. 19.2017


This Happened! We worked with Strongbow to bring Swale back this year!

05. 15.2017

FIELDWORKS: MARY MATTINGLY, Swale from A Blade of Grass on Vimeo.


05. 08.2017

Just wrote this for The Nature of Cities on Swale: An Experiment in a Commons

The Role of Trust:

A floating food forest, Swale is an experiment in a commons in New York City.  With roughly one hundred acres of community garden space compared to 30,000 acres of public parkland, picking food on New York’s public land has been illegal for almost a century. In a city where liability often trumps trust (even when benefits outweigh the harms) New York City Department of Parks & Recreation’s §1-04 Prohibited Uses initially stemmed from the concern that a glut of foragers would destroy an ecosystem.

Swale is an edible landscape built on a hopper barge that utilizes marine common law in order to circumvent local public land laws. In this way, Swale is able to dock adjacent to public land and allow people to pick edible and medicinal perennial plants grown onboard for free.  

Collaborative Building:

Building together is a process of physical, mental, and social transformation. Because we all have much to teach each other, Swale has been improved upon by insights from visitors, and also by learning more about the Parks Department’s current concerns over public access to edible plants. These include differing degrees of plant knowledge, alternative maintenance needs for edible landscaping, and a philosophy of conservation on park land.

The alliances that steward Swale are small examples that stress the large importance of urging more people to be involved in caring for our common home, and therefore in stewarding water and lands so that they may continue to be safe spaces to utilize in multiple ways. One year after the launch of Swale, the Parks Department will pilot the first public “foodway” at Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx. This signifies a change and a realization that basic human needs for access to healthy food outweigh perceived liabilities. Not only do we need more people at the table, but we also need more opportunities for people to build the table.

Social Love as a Commons:

Urban food forests won’t feed a city like New York anytime soon. However, a multitude of different approaches that are closer to home are necessary if we are going to address the role of industrial farming in climate change, and also begin to heal from damage done to the environment, ourselves and our neighbors through industrial forms of production that neglect human and environmental health.

As a country, we have sped towards privatization of everything. So it is no wonder that movements towards food sovereignty and rebuilding common spaces continue to grow stronger. The ability to bridge understandings, communities, and knowledge sets with social love and dignity are urgently needed in order to understand (and then part ways) with systemic social and environmental violence. Social love is itself a commons, and it is what moves us to devise larger strategies together to halt environmental degradation and to encourage care. It’s difficult to pre­sume we can begin healing nature and the environment without at the same time being able to trust in our fundamen­tal human relationships.

Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.



I spent the winter building a hill on Swale

Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.

Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.

Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.


    Swale is a public floating food forest in New York City on a barge, founded by Mary Mattingly to assert food as a commons. People can visit Swale to pick fresh food for free.

    Swale is a floating food forest on a hopper barge that can dock at public piers around NYC. It offers educational programming and welcomes visitors to harvest fruits and vegetables for free.  With perennial gardens, Swale utilizes edible forestry techniques that mimic natural ecosystems and require less human maintenance over time.

    Established in 2015 through a grant from A Blade of Grass, Swale was conceived as a public sculpture. Waterways common law would allow us to do what would be illegal on NYC’s public land, while still being a test case for an edible “foodway” on land.

    Swale stresses how important it is for more people to be involved in caring for our common home and to re-address food as a commons. It follows the insights of Elinor Ostrom and others who found that commons can be sustainably managed where people know each other, trust each other, and work together in caring for a place. In fact when Swale launched, and there was not much ripe to pick, on some days we found more people bringing plants than taking them.

    Together with community and stewardship groups, and a core team of 12 members, we have been able to work with governmental organizations such as the Urban Field Station.  This year, we will build bridges with more businesses, groups, and individuals along the Bronx River as the NYC Department of Parks considers a public foodway in Concrete Plant Park.

    Our team came together for ecological and social reasons. For me, it had to do with growing up in an agricultural town where the drinking water was poisoned from pesticides. I learned I had an autoimmune disease and the food I ate was making me sick. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized my drive was not just because I can’t fathom why we continue to use herbicides knowing they pollute fresh water, or why multinationals have been allowed to privatize what we need to live, but because anger stems from love, and inaction is a worse injustice.

    When the soil is cared for, taking food from the ground is healthier and less extractive from surrounding communities who also end up being the long-term custodians for the packaging we dispose. Swale came out of learning that in addition to over 100 acres of community garden space in NYC, the city cares for 30,000 acres of parkland. It’s been improved by learning more about the Parks Department’s concerns about public access to plants as food, including increased maintenance needs for edible landscaping, and a philosophy of conservation. 

    While there are many rubrics for best practices in coalition building… What happens when we bring art into a collective impact approach? Swale continues to grow out of insightful critiques, one in 2009 with Julien Terrell from Youth Ministries, who suggested that a past project called Waterpod use perennial plants instead of laboring over an annual garden, and indirectly from Rick Prelinger, who wrote: Building a place where tools, ideas, and projects are shared and money wields less power is a profoundly urgent experiment, but it’s success would require that we redefine what we do as artists. We’d have to move beyond a demonstrative mindset… and build a more permanent presence geared to supplying what society doesn’t currently provide.


    Swale's Field Station:

    Here is the list of general supplies and specialized equipment for a field station on Swale that I put together while at the Urban Field Station:

    1. The Greenhouse Theater will be retrofit to include a private lofted bunk for sleeping. Including general camping equipment : mosquito net, bedding, air mattress;
    2. Cooking facilities currently are minimal but we have a cooler and I have a small butane burner that can be used to make coffee/Swale tea/eggs/etc; 
    3. Dry compost toilet (We currently have a portable camping toilet that doesn't compost so would need to make a dct);
    4. Shower: Last summer we made a clever shower with greywater filtration when camping on Swale in the Bronx. We would have to remake that shower;
    5. Library: Urban food forestry titles like Darrin Nordahl's books, Commons titles, water titles, and we also have a recent partnership with the FNR Foundation who could supply us with their own publication in addition to titles from this list: http://www.fnrfoundation.org/resources.html;
    6. We currently have solar power but would want to get wifi.

    A more focused equipment list would consist of:

    A longer term research goal I have with Swale is to practice saline farming techniques in order to collect a localized dataset that can be both used locally and also shared with US-based areas near oceans that lack fresh water - like the Southwest. Studying the effects of brackish water in diversified organic farming; learning with and from sea level rise, acidifying oceans, and lack of fresh water are all important reasons to undertake this as a focus area on Swale. That Swale would have equipment to test salinity and water quality from our slow sand filter that pulls water from the river we are docked in would be one equipment area. (What's interesting about the slow sand filter is that it doesn't completely desalinate, so while the biological and chemical contaminants are 98-99% removed, the saline content is still higher than fresh water). For this, we would need:
    1. Equipment for testing salinity of soil including Arduino sensor setup from Biome Arts;
    2. Water monitoring equipment;
    3. Canoe, paddles, life vests;
    4. Portable weather Station (Amelia Marzek) and physical log book;
    5. 3 MIT XO computers (I have);
    6. Link with a full water monitoring lab (Harbor School or through Battery Urban Farm).

    8. On site soil testing: distilled water, beakers, magnetic stirrer, microscope;
    9. Garden tools (for onboard) and sediment coring device (to collect samples nearby Swale);
    Until then:
    Last year, we began developing a partnership with the Battery Urban Farm (through Ruth!) and would be able to use their soil lab to test fungal hyphae levels and imbalances in soil makeup.

    Stewardship equipment list? 
    Swale is a perfect setting for getting to meet and talk with a diverse cross-section of New Yorkers. Last year, with the help of Rita Sharper, I was able to catalog the expectations and desires of over 8,000 people regarding what they would want to pick from an urban food forest in their city. Making a more robust system for people to share their thoughts on stewardship, the commons, and food desires is a goal! I think that the field station on Swale should include a system where insights from visitors could be more thoughtfully recorded and organized. 


Quote from Laudato si, pp. 18, eng: But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard.


When I was thirteen, I had a glimpse of factory farming, and became vegetarian. I spent the next fifteen years eating wheat, starches, beans, kales, rice, and nuts - but mostly wheat. When I was 28 I developed appendicitis. My appendix was surgically removed and subsequently I had four operations on my intestines over the course of a year, all due to complications with the first surgery. At the point of the last operation I weighed 98 pounds and there was no end in sight. I went to another doctor who discovered I had developed the antibodies for celiac disease, which is essentially intolerance to gluten. It's difficult to detect without doing an actual biopsy, but the antibodies can also be conclusive. Essentially, this autoimmune kills the cilia in people’s intestines so that those bodies cannot process incoming vitamins. These bodies then search for other nutrient sources. Having to change my diet overnight brought me back to eating meat, and for the next seven years I ate a limited diet of meat, between 1-2x a week. Today I am transitioning back to vegetarianism and maybe someday veganism. I believe it is one of the only planetary choices I can make.


Happy New Year






UM Humanities Mary Mattingly Film FINAL


Mary Mattingly



University of Michigan's Institue for the Humanities Amanda Krugliac wrote this beautiful text about my exhibition there:
The work of Mary Mattingly suggests an undeniable suspension of disbelief, a leap of some brand of faith, but with eyes open. Collectively, her projects speak to both volition, and burden, and a surprising acknowledgement of that conundrum. Her binds and bundles emphasize the mess we are in…but her performances, assemblages and installations are in no way brooding, or wallowing. Instead, as she traces a path from origin to use, to dump, her gaze is futuristic, what can be ultimately imagined beyond all that, finding solutions.
Her work and ideas are striking, and precipitate a change in consciousness…to foresee a place that doesn’t pretend to be utopia, but instead offers an alternative way of being, of thinking, understanding that is dependent on the steps we take and the stark reality of our choices made or unmade, unadorned. What are we willing to sacrifice in the process to ultimately secure a sustainable way of life and respectful co-existence?
During her residency, Mattingly travelled to the Upper Peninsula, exploring its terrain and cobalt mines. She thrifted for glassware and other goods, visited trash sites, met with metal workers, and airplane mechanics. She engaged with students at U-M from diverse departments collecting personal objects for a sacred burial on the Diag, a related project to her installation in the gallery. Each workshop included the ritual of tea and cake, storytelling, drawing, but also 3D imaging which became part of her digital archives. There was never any sense that she placed more value on one object or another, or one ritual, but rather, and all became part of a bundle.
In preparation for her gallery installation, the cumulative cobalt hue of her studio at U-M Stamps School which was comprised of her forgings…blue glass, blue powder, blue fabrics, blue pipes, was both infatuating and intoxicating. Scales and diagrams, photographs taken on location, and a series of carefully orchestrated suspensions and pulleys all seemed to potentially lead us to some peculiar and certain destination, a Eureka moment of an exalted explorer, a promise. Perhaps the true brilliance was the way everything seemingly converged, only to reveal loose ends, connections and disconnections, a network of tangents, a mesh of turns, the various routes of mazes. The work Mary Mattingly creates can only exist because, although she fully recognizes the impossibility of things, she insists on residing in the realm of the possible. —Amanda Krugliac, Curator at U-M Institute for the Humanities


I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumor or a legend because it makes sense of what life’s brutalities cannot, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts and honor. - John Berger


Cobalt is considered a “strategic metal” by the United States government. Strategic metals are defined as commodities integral to the national defense, aerospace, and energy industries, but threatened by supply disruptions due to limited domestic production. Worldwide, fifty percent of cobalt is used in the chemical industry to make pigments for glass, cloth, and porcelain as well as binders, drying agents, nuclear energy, and fertilizer. Super alloys from cobalt comprise 20% of the global market, and include hard metals, permanent magnets, carbides, and rechargeable batteries. The U.S. military consumes 62% of the world’s supply of cobalt.

In an era nationally defined by industrial labor’s exportation, Michigan’s Protect and Grow, part of the Michigan Defense Center’s “Arsenal of Innovation” is touted as one answer to a challenging consumer-industrial sector in the USA. With Protect and Grow, parts of Michigan’s auto industry are transformed to produce military-grade weapons and vehicles. The University of Michigan’s Automotive Research Center and other institutions are also in transformation, with programs like the United States Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

In late 2014, Michigan became one of three states producing cobalt, from a nickel mine north of Marquette called Eagle Mine. Currently, anywhere from 50-70% of cobalt extraction happens in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After being mined, it’s purchased by companies such as Huayou Cobalt (registered China). Huayou Cobalt acquired one of the largest cobalt mining permits in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It sells refined cobalt to consumer market clients including Apple (registered USA), LG Chem (registered Korea), Sony (registered USA), Volkswagen (registered Germany).

Studying the production, distribution, and use of Cobalt was the starting point for this exhibition. From craft objects to Impressionist painting and the contemporary Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye, Cobalt Blue has a significant art history. What does it mean though, to work with materials that are both seductive and linked to contemporary forms of violence? If the exhibition is a form of storytelling—what do these objects say?

Because of their ubiquity, the objects in the exhibition may veil their colonial histories, but in their modern replications, they implicate users in a massive extraction-based neocolonialism that can be deadly to the humans working in and living near mines. This is an extraction that also sacrifices the land, water, air, and animal life for economic gain.

The exhibition includes photographs and objects, many are transformed through boxing, bundling, rolling, cutting, stretching, and crushing; all techniques used to alter Cobalt.


Quote from Laudato si, pp. 36 eng. 51. Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations. A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. The export of raw materials to satisfy markets in the industrialized north has caused harm locally, as for example in mercury pollution in gold mining or sulphur dioxide pollution in copper mining. There is a pressing need to calculate the use of environmental space throughout the world for depositing gas residues which have been accumulating for two centuries and have created a situation which currently affects all the countries of the world. The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. There is also the damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries, and by the pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, in the countries in which they raise their capital: “We note that often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals. They do here what they would never do in developed countries or the so-called first world. Generally, after ceasing their activity and withdrawing, they leave behind great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable”.30


"Confluence" is hosting all sorts of non-traditional tour guides this fall and in 2017 :)


I want Swale to reimagine public food, reinforce water as a human right, and co-create
our shared present and future through common spaces.



Papaya - space cat


On Trauma, Grief and Resilience: A project at the Museum of Modern Art.

How can art ask us to think deeply about resilience, and what it means to be resilient? Which experiences are supposed to be remembered and which are supposed to be forgotten? How can we begin to imagine a nonviolent world when we are rarely allowed to grieve over its violence? Objects can connect us through their histories and the powerful stories they carry with them. When we are able to change their form, it can be monumental. We can add our own voice and that can be healing. In the fall of 2015 I proposed a project to the Museum of Modern Art’s education department. What would it mean to take an object with a violent history and cooperatively transform it? How could a project work, and what shape would it finally take? Most of all, how can we begin to share our experiences and differences through an intergenerational, multiracial, and multinational conversation about pain, and love?

Mary Mattingly at MoMA Cullman Center. Make Art Not War.       Mary Mattingly at MoMA Cullman Center. Make Art Not War.

I hoped we could tell a story about changing national priorities – from a war and consumption-centered nation to one that is eager to learn from its own violence and vulnerability.  Here’s what I proposed: I would purchase a US military trailer at government auction and the students would be the idea makers, the re-creators. They would architect the redesign, keep the budget, and be the project managers. I would facilitate, question, advise on, and ultimately champion their ideas.  A trailer that had been redelivered to the US from Iraq was ours to work with. With seventeen high school students, we began with a series of architectural charrettes. We decided upon a criteria, or guidelines that defined what’s important to us that should be reflected in the project. It was overwhelmingly practical: what we had the budget for, our aesthetic positions, and most of all our concerns about safety. Even with all of us, this two-ton trailer was a force. In the following weeks, we created drawings and maquettes. We started and then later abandoned a series of ideas.

The things we didn’t end up doing: We didn’t turn the military trailer into a park or a garden.
We didn’t turn the military trailer into a mobile kitchen.
We didn’t turn the military trailer into a giant printmaking press.
We didn’t use the tires for tire swings.
We didn’t completely deconstruct the trailer and rebuild it into a sphere.
We didn’t turn the military trailer into an art studio.
We didn’t turn the military trailer on its side and project films on the trailer bed.
We didn’t melt the military trailer down and mold the steel into a sword.

Instead we made it into a social space that’s near impossible to define. It was a small piece of each of those things; it came from different voices and took months of compromise and working together. It came from a process of learning how to use new tools and taking time to teach each other the tools we were already skilled in. The project was not about resilience but instead about revaluing the ability to grieve. From there, it was about transforming an object into a symbol, and then into a space. We looked for a premade form to process some of those emotions collectively, but finally had to create a new one. After all, I wondered, what new potentials might develop if resilience was less valued? Like the faith many have in market expansion, resilience is a temporary fix, and has often been a way to leave the larger questions unanswered and problems unaddressed.

Mary Mattingly at MoMA Cullman Center. Make Art Not War. Mary Mattingly at MoMA Cullman Center. Make Art Not War.  Mary Mattingly at MoMA Cullman Center. Make Art Not War.


Make Art Not War at MoMA opens next week. Finishing the project!

Mary Mattingly at MoMA Cullman Center. Make Art Not War.


KunstMagazin came to the studio

Mary Mattingly, Blockades, Boulders, Weights photographs. KunstMagazin


Transforming Military Materials into Social Spaces
It's been a long time in the making…but for the past 7 months (for both personal and political reasons) I've been researching nonviolent movements, making artwork around the idea, and trying to find an answer to the questions: How can we dedicate ourselves to living nonviolently, today? Is it even possible when we often can't care for ourselves if we aren't able to buy what we need from long-distance supply chains wrought with violence? I'm excited that the first project will be made in a really collaborative way with teens studying art who will have equal say throughout the planning process, from budgeting, to aesthetic decisions, to the sculpture's use @ MoMA Education

Dr. Bethany Wiggin's blog about WetLand:


Installing a commission for Percent for Art in SOM's Net Zero school in Staten Island - in progress


Robert Rauschenberg’s handwritten draft of a statement on photography first published in Rauschenberg Photographs, Pantheon Books, New York, 1981.
From the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Archives


For a long time I've thought art can be a form of nonviolent action. What I mean by this for me is, in a small way, I’m working towards a future that isn’t dependent on war, or a country that isn’t centered on a war economy. But for most of my life I’ve participated in small wars through the continual violence I inflict on the land, water, animals and humans through habitual consumption. I consider this the Taking Economy, and know that I have the capacity to more fully participate in a network of Giving, made of people who are not just net-zero but are able to make net-positive a way of life.


"Access to Tools" with Triple Canopy went live today. It's



Just came across this writing by Dorothy Day on Cuba. And then one on Pennsylvania coal mining. HERE



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