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ELECTRIC NIGHT SWIMMING

- with COA members Jake LaChapelle and Newt Kershner
The Gowanus Canal is clean; you can even drink the water. The intensive remediation begun in 2011 has run its course, but not quite as expected. The clean-up utilized several technologies considered advanced at that time. The edges of the canal were landscaped to control storm water runoff, and new plant species whose natural biological processes could clean the water were introduced to the canal. The technology was known as phytoremediation. In 2015, active mechanical systems were installed in the canal in an effort to flush and contain the pollutants.

By the thirties, the plants had evolved to become highly efficient. Their appetite for pollutants became insatiable. Though the water was cleaner, high concentrations of pollutants could be found in the mechanical remediation sites. Naturally, the plants colonized the machines. Soon, the plant concentration at the collection machines became so dense that the machines were scarcely identifiable. By the end of the decade, the plants had set the machines free. The new hybrid plant/machines roamed the canal looking for new pollution to eat. Scientists named this hybrid system the bioplurb.

In the last decade, much of the bioplurb has starved. The water is no longer rich pollution. What remains is a bio-industrial ruin. The 2050, bioplurb is a relic of an industrial past. No longer functioning in its former role, it has become an amenity in the canal and the surrounding neighborhood. Swimmers climb its stalks and dive off into the clean water. Its branches have infiltrated local architecture creating transient spaces. Larger root-balls straddle the canal creating new and unplanned crossings.

The bioplurb has given a new identity to Gowanus. Its bioluminescence illuminates the canal at night. The locals swim at all hours under its soft glow. By reference to Coney Island, the locals call their night activity, “Electric Swimming.”