Life and Art Aboard the Waterpod

The Waterpod, photo by Michael Nagle

Over the weekend, I joined a quartet of chickens, a garden full of greens, and several artists and crewmembers aboard the Waterpod, a floating, nomadic, self-sufficient barge for living, working, and creating art.  For the past few weeks, the Waterpod has been docked at Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, allowing the public to explore the sustainable structure at certain hours before moving to the next location (it will be towed to Staten Island today).  Two artists, Mary Mattingly and Alison Ward, have been living on the Waterpod since June, along with a rotating crew of volunteers.  Although the goal is both to work and make art aboard the Waterpod, it seems like the majority of time is spent working: tending to the chickens, working in the garden, cooking meals (which consist of eggs, greens, and rice grown from an on-board rice paddy), harvesting water, and composting waste.  Still, the Pod’s largest space, which is framed by a dome that resembles a smaller, non-commercial version of Epcot and includes seating made out of black styrofoam, is a venue for arts events.  Saturday afternoon’s event was “Blackout”, a lineup of performances and lectures commemorating the 2003 blackout throughout northeastern US.  I expected a larger crowd after the Waterpod was featured in last week’s NY Times, but the group of about thirty still filled up the space.  The gentle rocking of the barge combined with the quiet surroundings almost made me forget I was in New York, until I looked outside and saw Manhattan’s skyline across the water.

Visiting the Waterpod and living on it are two very different experiences.  As a visitor, I only got a taste of what it’s like to live and work full-time on the floating structure, which has taken on many identities: it’s a home, a farm, a venue for artistic expression, and an exhibit.  Most of all, the Waterpod is an admirable model for sustainable, communal living and creative exploration.  And Maddingly, the Pod’s founder, should be commended for her vision, resourcefulness, and ability to successfully implement the project.

The Waterpod, photo by Mary Mattingly

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