Mother Earth, rotten with life, filled with information in each of its tiniest parts.
To swim, to eat, to breathe!
– Rudy Rucker, Wetware, The Ware Tetralogy (1988)

The arts have the capacity to enlarge the universe…They are among the most forceful ways in which culture generates
a small space of chaos within chaos where chaos can be elaborated, felt, thought.
– Elizabeth Grosz, Chaos Territory Art (2008)

If you can’t swim in it, canoe across it. Find a way to connect to it. – Leanne Simpson, Mississauga Nishnaabeg activist poet
and academic (from a 2013 interview with Naomi Klein)

The Floating Studio for Dark Ecologies (FSDE) is an art/science framework for hands-on creative inquiry that promotes new ecological paradigms, focused on understanding and improving the present and future of urban waterways, and their connections to oceans and climate change.

“Dark ecology,” a term coined by philosopher Timothy Morton, challenges Romantic views of nature as separate from human action; inviting us instead to “make visible what is hiding underneath.” The “underneath” is being explored by a wide array of makers – artists in rowboats on toxic canals; DIY kits to monitor water pollution; teens remediating brownfields.

In summer 2015, FSDE will conduct an intensive research project to map the dark ecologies occurring in and around the Newtown Creek Superfund Site, Brooklyn. This project will launch the FSDE website. Starting with New York City, the site will feature people & projects working publicly on environmental issues in novel ways, and offer its first publication: a free downloadable Field Guide to the Dark Ecologies of Newtown Creek Superfund Site. The map and guide offer participatory models and opportunities to get involved in existent projects.

I initiated FSDE to connect the highly motivated artists, activists, and citizen scientists working and living amidst accelerated changes, globalization and deep uncertainty. Often times, we can feel like ineffective specks in an ocean of immense environmental problems. Coalition building – making sense of and integrating these “specks” of amazing work – feels urgent, to make the sum of our commitment greater than our many parts.

Can expanded perceptions of nature, environment and human-caused change lead to agency in both personal and public spheres? FSDE offers the opportunity to invest in a new mindset: Creative imagination as emergency preparedness. To start, we’ll use art as a tool for social change to bring people, organizations & communities to the table.

This is a new initiative. Below are recent work samples in social practice and gallery works, relevant to the development of FSDE. Many of these projects are collaborative. The first link belowis documentation from summer 2014. I was a two year research fellowat Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR, during which time I conceptualized FSDE. You can see some of the more experimental work we produced, from processing toxic clay, to growing mushroom bricks, to hosting a dinner that challenged the notion of "eating local."


Documentation of pilot field trips, workshops and material explorations.
FSDE was first developed in 2013-14 through a fellowship at Pacific Northwest College of Art, in the Department of Collaborative Design.
(Fall 2014)
In collaboration with Valentine Cadieux
A 2-day workshop for 25 people based on an open question: “What would it mean to eat the future -- can we brainstorm ways to design a picnic, in which a site’s future reverberates through the experience, and all of its design components?”

(Winter 2014)
In collaboration with graduate students from ITP, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU
An experimental, environmental, futuristic craft and food mini-fair in Union Square Park, strategically wedged between the seasonal Holiday Craft Fair and the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

(2012 - ongoing)
Body of work about the geologic, biological, historical and social ecosystems that constitute the petroleum landscape. Works include dinners,public engagements, animated works, drawings and sculptures.

(Spring 2014)
(LINK to Houston Chronicle Review)
in collaboration with Lucullan Foods
Dinner/performance for 50, hosted by Rice University
(the second site-specific version; first presented at Boston University, 2013).
(Spring 2014)
(note: free download link)
Image and text project / book, published in collaboration with editor Valerie Vogrin and 35 writers.

(2014 - ongoing)
In collaboration with Una Chaudhuri, Fritz Ertl and Oliver Kellhammer
Agit prop posters, audio works, and installations to address issues of "inner climate."





FSDE’s overarching goal is to foster exemplary art/science engagements with a range of public participants in order to:

· Deepen understanding of rivers’ ecosystems and humans’ place within it;
· Connect people to their environmental history and facilitate participation in future scenario building;
· Investigate participatory models that can contribute to social and environmental justice

Our current one-year plan is also meant to position FSDE for its long-term goals:

· Replicate this model in other river cities.
· Continue adding to the online archive with more Field Guides to Dark Ecologies for sites around the world.
· Build or modify a floating houseboat or barge studio as a “home” for FSDE’s socio-ecological experimentation.

We cannot fix things with more business as usual. “Fixing” implies a stasis that, under an illusion of infinite resources, might once have seemed possible. Instead, by working in borderline or uncomfortable spaces such as superfund sites, by connecting people to their environmental history, and by facilitating participation in future scenario building, FSDE asks: How we can change the ways we live together, as beings among beings, as one of many species in a dynamic ecosystem? FSDE aims to use art as a tool for social change: nudging our capacity to encounter is the first step toward stewardship.


Marina Zurkow: lead artist
Carol Stakenas: producer
Oliver Kellhammer: land art, botany, permaculture
Peter McCoy: mycology advisor
Nicholas Hubbard, Rebecca Lieberman, Ariana Martinez, and Yilei Zhang: researchers
Aankit Patel: database programming

La Casita Verde NYC: Artist-run community garden focused on soil health, remediation, and understanding microbial communities (Brooklyn, NY)
Brandon Ballengée: Artist and biologist focused on the relationship between environmental change, toxins and animal health (Brooklyn, NY)
Dear Climate: Imagination-raising project addressing issues of climate change and species relations (online/nomadic)
Diana Balmori/Balmori Associates: Design studio working on floating marsh islands (Manhattan)
Stefani Bardin: Artist working in NYC food systems and climate change(Brooklyn, NY)
Billion Oyster Project: Long-term oyster restoration project in the NY Harbor (Governor’s Island)
“Wildman” Steve Brill: City parks forager (5 boroughs and Long Island)
Brooklyn Dredgers Club: Kayaking on the Gowanus superfund site (Brooklyn, NY)
Jon Cohrs: Artist working on “wasteland fictions” and participatory “wilderness expeditions” in the Hackensack River (Hackensack, NJ)
Kathy High and Oliver Kellhammer, Brownfields remediation using plants as part of The Sanctuary (Troy, NY)
Natalie Jeremijenko: Artist/Scientist working on OOZ and cross-species projects, (Manhattan, NY)
The Living: Architecture studio using mycelium for building materials (Brooklyn, NY)
Marie Lorenz: Tide and Current Water Taxi, a row boat taxi serving Gowanus and Red Hook (Brooklyn, NY)
Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance: Active umbrella organization for waterfront issues and communities (Five Boroughs)
Newtown Creek Alliance: Community-based organization dedicated to restoring, revealing and revitalizing Newtown Creek
NYC Water Trails: Stewardship group for non-motorized boaters in NYC, focused on water quality testing, citizen participation & water access
North Brooklyn Boat Club: Members paddle club on the Newtown Creek, a Superfund site (Brooklyn/Queens, NY)
Partnerships in Parks: Connects people, organizations and government with the skills and tools to transform parks and spaces under development into dynamic community assets (Five Boroughs)
The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab): DIY designers of tools and community workshops to understand and assess environmental issues (Brooklyn/National)
Spurse Collective: Systems thinkers/artists working urban nature including roadkill, sidewalk survival, cookbooks, walking tours (NY/New Jersey)
Teresa Ten Eyck: Biologist, working on mushroom remediation in community gardens (New York/Brooklyn, NY)
Terreform ONE and New Lab: Maker space for sustainable design inquiry in the Brooklyn Navy Yard led by Mitchell Joaquim (Brooklyn, NY)
Brooke Singer: Artist working in community gardens on microbial communities and soil health (Brooklyn, NY)
Smudge Studio/Friends of the Pleistocene: Artists/researchers focused on radioactive waste and psychologically navigating the Anthropocene (Brooklyn, NY)
Tyler Volk: Biologist, NYU, focused on systems and patterns in nature (Manhattan, NY)

More information on the development of FSDE is available upon request. Please email marinazurkow@me.com