Brooklyn artists create a way to explore the Newtown creek with remote controlled ships and underwater cameras
The Newtown Creek Armada, a fleet of nine remote-controlled model ships built by three Brooklyn artists and launched at the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, has given the public an opportunity to explore the famously fouled waterway and document it with underwater video cameras.
Sarah Nelson Wright, Laura Chipley, and Nathan Kensinger officially launched the Armada on Sunday at the Nature Walk, considered by some to be Greenpoint’s version of the High Line. The Armada will be sailing every weekend in September, providing a means to experience the waterway in as intimate a fashion as possible.
Videos from the team’s earlier expeditions on the creek reveal a haunting and fascinating underwater world. Sunlight filters down on garbage and dead marine life floating serenely under the surface, but fish and other creatures also appear, doggedly surviving in the waters of the troubled Superfund site.
“When you pilot the boats, you’re actually helping to document the Newtown Creek,” Kensinger said, “And all the footage will be gathered and used as an art installation at a future exhibition.”
A main goal of the Armada is to bring public recognition to the Nature Walk, a project begun in 1997 and recently completed with the assistance of numerous civic and governmental groups. The designer of the Nature Walk, environmental sculptor George Trakas, was present at the Newtown Creek Armada’s launching, and after giving a short speech, was presented the honorary role of being first to pilot the remote controlled ships.
“It really is emotionally moving to see all the people here and what a wonderful production this is,” Trakas said. “So many people are negative about it, so it’s nice to see things like this creating a positive moment for the Newtown Creek that both honors the creek and uses it.”
Katie Denny of the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition (sponsor of the Armada) said of the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, “one of the things we’re really excited about is bringing people to this treasure, which is a work of art in itself.” The Nature Walk is located east of the Pulaski Bridge, at the end of Paidge Avenue along the creek’s waterfront.
Nelson Wright and Chipley are graduates of CUNY Hunter College’s MFA program in Integrated Media Arts. Kensinger is an accomplished photographer and filmmaker currently working with the Brooklyn Film Festival. In addition to the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition, the Armada project received support from the Brooklyn Arts Council, IOBI, MackTez, Feast Brooklyn, DEP, Newtown Creek Alliance, North Brooklyn Boat Club and numerous Kickstarter donors.