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Stillness

They say you can’t fall into the same stream twice, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

One thing you can do is collect some water in bottles you find floating in the stream, and let it freeze while the year changes from old to new. The next day, cut the plastic off and you’re left with ghost bottles.

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This stream is fed by the surrounding neighborhoods, shopping centers, highways, and vestiges of green space—our traces all collect here. As they melted, these old selves were filtered through the new Matthew Henson Nature Center, adding to the collection and then getting back to business.

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Exploration

A set of wicker shelves placed in the woods.

I’ve begun a new interactive installation, in uninvited collaboration with the Maryland Parks Department.

The Matthew Henson Self-Serve Nature Center will respond to your scholarly requests in real time.

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“I don’t think art can stand up to nature.”

-Walter De Maria

My assistant Tulip and I went to check on the Museum of Natural Selection and test out the new waders yesterday.
Everything went well except that the Museum was gone.
My first instinct was to blame The Man… Jay-Z and Beyoncé must have made a call to the Parks Department, and the suits had hauled it off to an underground storage facility. But after some serious wading in the post-storm flood waters we found a piece of the wreckage, 40 yards downstream. So this Biblical destruction was probably wrought by certified teenage art critics, with too much time on their hands during Holy Week.
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In a way this makes me feel better, knowing that the plastic lobster I pulled out of the stream has been returned to the wild, rather than living out its near-eternal plastic life in a landfill or art gallery. Does that make me insufficiently environmental? It’s a question I’ll ponder on Saturday as I wade in the waters, looking for old and new friends.

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All museums have missions.
This Museum exists to be discovered.
It’s a catalyst for surprise and wonder and community.

The wonder depends on the surprise, and the surprise depends on it remaining a secret. That’s the first paradox. I’ve been wondering how to share a work that is by nature secret, sketchy, and illegal.

The second paradox is that if you make art out of other people’s trash, well meaning citizens might throw it away. So I had considered the Earthday Cleanup scheduled for Saturday, April 19, to be a deadline: Share this work before an army of girl scouts and art critics carries it out of the woods in bright plastic bags. Where could I find a large number of people ready to take an interest in this tiny manufactured wilderness? You see where this is going…

I realized that the community I was seeking and the community I dreaded are one and the same. The people who use this stream are the ones who care enough to clean it. So I will be staffing the Museum of Natural Selection this Saturday. I’ll ask anyone who happens by to consider its natural place in the scheme of things, and to add their most interesting finds to the collection. And if no one else shows up, I’ll pick things up and make art out of them.

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