In the fall of 2014, I was conducting research on New York City’s fresh water supply system and it’s newest addition: Water Tunnel No. 3.“New” is a loose term; it’s been under construction for forty years, and in that time it has chewed up everything in its path from the region’s dense Fordham gneiss to the lives of over twenty people.
Those who perished were all laborers—except for one. A twelve-year-old Bronx boy by the name of Don-re Carroll fell to his death in the tunnel in 1991 while playing with his friends. I was able to track down a short obituary in the New York Times archives, which led me to Don-re’s old neighborhood, which led me to forming relationships with the neighbors and friends that knew him as he was: bellicose, adventurous, alive.
My several trips to the neighborhood and interviews I conducted with its residents led to a multimedia feature story in Narratively, a publication dedicated to telling unknown human stories through writing, photography, illustration, and film.
This project transcended my understanding of what my artistic process is all about, what it stands for. There are narratives to the lives of millions that go untold despite hitting a level of wonder the most deftly crafted fiction can only match. These narratives depict us as a web of interconnected souls, occupying choice pockets of space and time where we are bound to the extraordinary circumstances of the physical world.
It became clear that Don-re’s story was just one of many that I could tell about our cities, our environment, and how we stand poised at the intersection of the two. And so, I’ve set out to find the stories buried in the fabric of cities all around the world. Chiang Mai will be Chapter Two.
Here is the link to the story in Narratively: http://narrative.ly/stories/the-fresh-water-beast-beneath-new-yorks-streets/
Workshop Following Two Month Residency at ComPeung in Collaboration with Phayao University
For three days in late April of 2016, I worked with the first year students of the University of Phayao’s art department on a map of Mueang Phayao and its environs. The group of 45 students were divided into three groups—Nature, Structures, and Society—and asked to examine how their subject had been affected by the region’s adverse environmental problems, such as air pollution and drought. They were free to use whatever artistic means of expression suited them the best, whether it was to sketch their findings, take photos, write notes, collect found objects, or work in some other medium. Above all else, the objective of the workshop was to expose them to the process of cartography, a discipline most often associated with the scientific method, and to encourage them to use it in a creative, expressive way. What we accomplished was a sprawling (and trilingual) mental map of two selected areas of Phayao: the city center/lakefront and a Burmese migrant worker hamlet near the university. As we made the map, we began to realize the difference between representation and reality and how our own personal experiences can fill in the gaps where “formal” maps go blank. At the end, each student sat down with me and explained what the map was and what story it had to tell. And so we came upon the title: Beyond the Map.
Nick Reale was born on an archipelago off mainland America, prompting his fascination with how the human-made and the natural interact. He writes carefully constructed narratives, combining them with maps and photographs, to question our personal geographies. How are we influenced by what we build? By what we destroy? By our blind spots? By those places we return to without obligation, unconsciously? As a mapper–someone concerned with boundaries–his work attempts to harmonize differences: fact and fiction, the familiar and the surreal, the immense and the miniscule.
Reale’s body of work includes To Shangri-Lyn, a redevelopment plan for the Cadman Plaza section of Downtown Brooklyn; his fiction and creative non-fiction writing; and his upcoming channel on the new iOS app PionEAR, which offers virtual audio tours of New York City.