Free River Zones: An artistic inquiry

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Hell Gate and North Brother Island, East River © Courtesy of the artist & The Goethe-Institut (Wyoming Building)
Free River Zones: An artistic inquiry

5 East 3rd Street
New York, NY 10003
April 30th, 2014 - May 31st, 2014

east village/lower east side
2-7, Wednesday-Sunday


The Goethe-Institut New York and the Galerie für Landschaftskunst present Free River Zones: An artistic inquiry. The project by six participants from the US, India and Germany is inspired by the ideas, visions and academic practice of Alexander von Humboldt within an experimental artistic format: field trips on New York's waterways, collaborative art work, and a series of talks about rivers worldwide will culminate into the declaration of a "Free River Zone" in New York and an art exhibition at the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building.

The point of departure is Humboldt's river voyage with Aimé Bonpland on the Orinoco and the Rio Negro in South America in 1800. Based on this historical event, the exhibition will present a contemporary take on Humboldt's legacy and is related to the exhibition "The Unity of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt and the Americas" at the Americas Society.

The idea of a "Free River Zone" is an experimental inquiry about the preconceptions and usage of rivers, aimed at overcoming antiquated definitions and developing new perceptions of landscape. It consists of acts of self-authorized "artistic declaration", which have been accomplished through interdisciplinary research and public discussions about the possible meanings and consequences of a "Free River Zone" status. For each river area, specific modi operandi are chosen—technical, political, ecological, cultural, poetical or non-logical ones—to displace them from purposes of societal functions.

Free River Zones: An artistic inquiry will be a forum for discussions and collaborative art work, as well as for field trips to locations in and around New York City and its waterways. The artists will discuss and select an area as an experimental case study for a declaration of an urban "Free River Zone".

In parallel, a series of talks will explore related existing projects with the river Elbe in the Hamburg port area in Germany as well as the river Yamuna in India and others.


Ravi Agarwal is a photographer artist, writer, curator, and environmental activist. He explores issues of urban space, ecology and capital in interrelated ways working with photographs, video, performance, on-site installations, and public art. He is the founder of the well-known Indian NGO Toxics Link and has been internationally awarded for his work.

New York based eco-artist Bob Braine is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and interpreting the interaction of people and their environment. In his performative and experimental art work he has explored rivers, landscapes, and ecosystems in New York, the United States, Germany and South America—by feet, bicycle and by boat. Having studied Fine Art in the University of Hartford Art School, he specialized and extensively published on histories and environments of rivers such as the Hudson River or the Main in Germany.

In his many residencies and projects across Asia, Europe, and the Unites States, New York based artist David Brooks has devoted himself to ideas and questions of sustainability, nature, and urban environmental action. Examining the relationship between the individual and the built and natural environment, he rigorously calls our concepts and ideas of nature into question. Born in Brazil, he earned a BFA from The Cooper Union and an MFA from Columbia University, after attending the Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt am Main in Germany.

Till Krause focuses in his works on landscapes, nature, urbanism, and space in general. In this context he explores questions of history, usage and structure. How do people engage with their surrounding environment and how does this relationship become visible? His projects often oscillate between art and other sciences. Moreover, Till Krause is the co-founder of the Museum ferner Gegenden and Galerie für Landschaftskunst in Hamburg.

Marie Lorenz studied at Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University. Her artwork combines psycho-geographic exploration with highly crafted, material forms. In her ongoing Project The Tide and Current Taxi she explores the waterways of New York City in self-build boats. Whether bringing passengers aboard or traveling solo in her rowboat she documents her journey through pictures, videos, and artifacts.

Hilmar Schäfer is research assistant at the chair of comparative cultural sociology at the European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder). Next to his research focuses in the fields of sociological theory and cultural sociology, Hilmar Schäfer also participates in interdisciplinary exhibitions on Pierre Bourdieu, ethnographic field research, and society. Referring to the interface between culture and nature he conceptualized and organized the interdisciplinary art project Biological Research Station Alster at Galerie für Landschaftskunst, in cooperation with Mark Dion.

Free River Zones: An artistic inquiry is presented by the Goethe-Institut New York and features work developed by the Galerie für Landschaftskunst, Ravi Agarwal, Bob Braine, David Brooks, Till Krause, Marie Lorenz, and Hilmar Schäfer. This collaboration was made possible through the generous support of Friends of Goethe New York, Inc.