Gouwane is a video essay in the mode of a speculative ethology and ethnography of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York. Our narrator takes us on a tour of the post-industrial canal via canoe, showcasing the accretions of cultural detritus, a motley crew of urban wildlife, both human and non-human, and improbable plans for redevelopment which have transformed this forgotten space into a material unconscious of the city. Elsewhere in the city, the Occupy protests of 2011 are in full swing. The utopian aspirations of that movement are contrast with the apparent dystopia of the Gowanus Canal. What are the limits of imagination? And where is wilderness? What is the historical legacy that sticks to a place regardless of its possible future?
The essay was originally commissioned by the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School of Design as part of a larger visual research project and exhibition called Fieldnotes from Gowanus that explored the Gowanus Canal with students, professors and curated artists. This larger project was connected to other arts programming about climate change at Parsons.