Hudson Headwaters Purge, 1991. Purge Projectile. 1983. The Purge Diptych documents combines two street action performances with common allegories of mender and meddler. Here, limestone serves as mender by purging acid from bodies of water and as agit prop to meddle with irresponsible consumption, the source of CO2 that results in human-induced climate change.
Hudson Headwaters Purge (above left) is part of a continuing series called Limestone Purge that dates back to 1983. Hudson Headwaters Purge dramatizes the crisis of person and planet as one; acid indigestion equals acid rain. The media picked up this connection referring to the project as; "River Rolaids" or "Tums for Mother Nature;" and to the artist as "Therapist." (1)
Hudson Headwaters Purge served as populist environmental agit prop that works with utility and poetry, metaphor and alchemy. Pharmaceutically, limestone neutralizes or "sweetens" the pH of acidic waters. The process of adding limestone to acidic rivers is a mitigation practice often deployed by environmental agencies. For Hudson Headwaters Purge, numerous 24" diameter by 3" thick limestone disks were placed near the headwaters of the Hudson River, just downstream from a barren superfund site. The quarried disks were repurposed from an earlier installation, Face Plate, which was installed at the Hirshhorn Museum Washington, D.C in 1989.
Purge Projectile (above right) was staged on a construction site in lower Manhattan in 1983, with the World Trade Center as backdrop. This piece serves as a counterpart to Hudson Headwaters Purge. With Purge Projectile, the naked provacateur confronts the citadel of corporate consumption by slinging limestone, with its purging qualities, intending "agitation as antidote." (2)
Today the sources of environmental problems, combustion and consumption, persist. We remain resigned to stop-gap solutions and look for bigger pills to cure our ills. We witness disorder in nature and the human condition as world oceans become more acidic and the growing numbers of climate change refugees seak common ground.
Hudson Headwaters Purge: Video and still documentation by Jules Backus and Scott White, 1991.
Purge Projectile: Video and still documentation by Valerie Silver, 1983. This piece is dedicated to her memory, a victim of the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack.