Overview

Project Description
Ancient New is a participatory arts project that includes a series of short films, art installations, and public events that reveals how the flow of water connects people. This participatory arts project will transform public sites in three states along the New River into a place for community events that create new ways for people to understand their connections to freshwater ecosystems and to each other.

Background
I’ve been working on this project in bits and pieces over the past several years. I started with photographs of fish and macro invertebrates, printed on transparencies and installed in the river to let people see what is in the river.

I then partnered with Turchin Center for Visual Arts and New River Conservancy to collect trash from river cleanups and create a 90 foot long map of the river. This image is of a collaborative installation at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts in Boone, North Carolina.  I worked with curator Mary Anne Redding, the New River Conservancy, and students to create this map from trash collected from the New River. Also featured in the photo is a site-specific mural by Joni Ray (far right) and photographs by Joshua White and Maggie Flanigan (far left). You can view more images of the process of creating the installation, or read a case study of this process is published in the EcoArt in Action book

This gave me the idea of taking plastic from the river and taping it to 16mm film to make a film without a camera. The result was my short film Water Cycle.

Process

The Ancient New is a highly participatory project.  I plan to collaborate with organizations, artists, and interested folks throughout the 320 mile long New River Valley to create films, visual art, and participatory art, and live events that meet the needs of local partners at each site. My goal is not to prescribe solutions, but rather to start conversations, allow people to use their own knowledge and experiences to connect to the river in a personal way.

The Trash Trout Motion Picture Show is one example.  During the spring of 2022, I will partner with the Town of Boone, North Carolina and the Watauga Riverkeeper to collect plastic bags and other debris from a passive stormwater debris collector nicknamed the Trash Trout. After the trash is collected, we will offer free public workshops for residents of all ages to create their own short films by taping small pieces of plastic and other river debris to clear 16mm film leader.  Finally, these films will be spliced together into a 16mm silent film reel titled The Trash Trout Motion Picture Show that can be projected onto a large screen to music provided by live musicians.  Check this site in the summer of 2022 for images from this event.

Film Series

To date I have three completed three short films for the Ancient New project: Water Cycle, Benthic Salvage, and Does Water Die? 

I am working on two additional short films tentatively titled Turbulence and Confluence. This set of five films will become the backbone for the Ancient New project and support future collaborations with community organizations working to ensure equitable access to clean water.   The films will provide a visual backdrop for the live events along the river, and screen at art galleries and film festivals.

Sculpture and Installation

Images of site-specific river installations in Ashe County, North Carolina.

Events

The first set of events for this project will be held along the New Rivers headwaters in Boone North Carolina.  Here is a link with details about how you can be part of the Trash Trout Motion Picture Show. These events are produced in collaboration with partners including

Funders

Appalachian State University’s Center for Appalachian Studies
Lillian E Smith Center / Piedmont College
North Carolina Arts Council