Jennifer Scappettone
Poetry, Gossip, Infrastructure               (page 5)

In the development of PARK, a series of performative- and research-based acts developed in collaboration with choreographer Kathy Westwater, architect Seung Jae Lee, and dancers, certain of these pop-ups—distant kin of refertility songs—are being adapted as scores for corporeal and vocal performance, while others are created anew. Kathy, Seung Jae, and I have met with designers and guardians of the future park and present methane factory on the former Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, a stunning 4.6 mile-wide monument to the postwar culture of disposability—and according to well-cited gossip, one of the two human constructions you can see from space, the other being the Great Wall of China. Like the amusement parks of Coney Island, Manhattan’s fantasy-other, whose parachutes can be seen from the landfill mounds, Fresh Kills stands as a double of Manhattan, of the culture of the absent towers it faces—its bulging underbelly. (Last year, when researching affordable places to live in the archipelago of New York City, I read that in certain parts of Staten Island one needs Windex ever at the ready to clear away the waste dumped by airplanes on their way into Newark Airport.) Fresh Kills is a bizarre hybrid landscape off of the New York Bay and along the Atlantic flyway, whose meticulous engineering for proper sinking and drainage of waste has led it to look quite like the Santa Cruz mountains where I first met Westwater: it's a panorama of gently sloping bald hills and watersheds. Engineers and urban planners have taught us about the elaborate infrastructure that does what it can to capture the byproducts of these mounds: about the methane recapturing process that makes gooseneck columns on the hills hiss and powers homes, about odiferous mercaptans and spiraling leachate swales, about “the bugs” designed to order at Columbia University to eat Fresh Kills toxins, the filtering and scrubbing of runoff before its restoration to the Arthur Kill, and exportation of leachate cakes to Pennsylvania. Staten Island residents have spoken to us of facts less toothsome via gossip: the stink at the mall and cancer cases and the lawsuits by families of 9/11 victims and not wanting to take their kids to the dump for a picnic. These testimonies have led us to a performance infrastructure that mingles utopian remediation with the indigestible, the residual.

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