Thursday, November 3, 2011
An Artistic Adventure: Day 2, Hurricane
Today's post is from Barbara Parker.
Site specific work lives at the intersection of inspiration and environment.
Today, the inspiration was resilience. A noun, meaning the ability to recover readily from adversity.
There are trees in South Florida whose trunks grow straight up, then take sharp turns, then grow straight up again. Those trees have weathered hurricanes. They are tossed and turned by wind, blown at 90 degree angles, and after, they continue to reach for the sky.
The people of South Florida are not so different; they have deep roots. Their love for this place is so deep, in fact, that they choose to invest and build knowing that at any moment, a hurricane could come through and take it all away. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew alone caused $26.5 billion dollars worth of damage; 160,000 residents were left homeless; and 15 people lost their lives. In response, Floridians dig deeper roots. They weather the storm, and then they rebuild.
Resilience. We heard the word over and over again when visiting last, and we had our inspiration.
Now all we needed was an environment.
We visited Biscayne National Park by boat. This is truly the way to see it as 95% of the park is water. Biscayne protects several major ecosystems including the third-longest living coral reef, a portion of Biscayne Bay, mangrove stretches along the shore, and the northernmost Florida Keys. It was on one of these keys, we would find exactly the environment we were looking for.
Porgy Key has a truly incredible story. In short, in 1897, Porgy Key was bought by Israel Jones, an African American who was likely born into slavery who made his way from North Carolina to South Florida. In a time when African Americans in the United States were suffering in segregation, Jones paid $300 for the island. He moved his family to the edge of the bay, cleared the land by hand and started successfully growing pineapples, key limes and lemons. The Jones family eventually became one of the most successful producers of pineapples on the East Coast of Florida.
In 1970 in the spirit of preservation, the Jones family sold their land to the National Park service, and Porgy Key became part of Biscayne National Park. Israel's son Lancelot Jones was granted the right to live out the remainder of his years in the family home. Please click here to read more about this fascinating history.
Today, Porgy Key is not an extremely accessible location. The island can only be accessed via shallow draft vessel. When you arrive to the key, you get your boat as close as you can without doing damage to the underwater terrain. Then, you hop off your boat, into the water (for us, this was waist-deep), and walk to a narrow opening. If you did not know where to look you would not find it. After walking a few feet through overgrown mangroves, you emerge into a clearing. Suddenly, you feel the spirit of Porgy Key.
In this clearing is the foundation of the Jones' family home. It burned to the ground in 1982 and what is left is only the foundation. You can walk up the steps to what would have been the front door. There are remnants of rocks marking where walls used to form rooms. There are ambitious weeds attempting to grow through the cracks in the rock. It is stunning and serene. And the perfect spot to film Hurricane.
We were granted very special permission by the Park Service to film here. We brought only the essential personnel, only one dancer, and took care to protect the ruins on which we were working.
Our location: Parson Jones Foundation, Porgy Key, Biscayne National Park
The dancer: Sarah Braverman
The music: "Dance of Death" from Andrew Bird's Ballad of the Red Shoes
We chose haunting music. The choreographer chose fluid motion. And the weather cooperated beautifully by giving us the perfect amount of wind.
When we combined all of the above, we had captured a dancer as a phoenix, rising from the ruins with hope and determination. To use another word, we captured resilience.
If you missed Day 1, please visit here.
Dancer: Sarah Braverman. All photos by Andrew Propp.