Bay Ridge Through an Ecological Lens: Nancy Nowacek

Video still from Nowacek’s, TO THE FUTURE MAYOR: Single channel video 13:14 2021

Bay Ridge through an Ecological Lens is a multi-faceted public art exhibition hosted by Stand4 Gallery and presented in collaboration with ecoartspace

This interactive, public, community arts exhibition is curated by Jennifer McGregor, featuring artists  Rebecca AllanAaron AsisChris CostanKate Dodd,  Peter EdlundKristin Reiber-HarrisEllen Coleman-IzzoSergey Jivetin,  Nathan KensingerRita LeducChristopher LinNikki LindtE.J. McAdamsJimbo Blachly Nancy Nowacek in collaboration with Carla Kihlstedt and Carlos Alomar,  Benjamin Swett and filmmakers:  Aaron Assis, Nate DorrSean Hanley, Nathan Kensinger, Nikki Lindt, Emily Packer and Lesley Steele, and Kristin Reiber-Harris.

It consists of nature walks and community interventions in the gallery and various locations throughout the Bay Ridge community from April 15 through June 17, 2023. Art Spiel will feature a series of interviews related to this project throughout its duration, here with artist Nancy Nowacek.

Tell us about your work in the show.

Long Distance Dedication No 3, Crosstalk, an a cappella vocal piece made from backing vocals from pop songs from the 1970s (and two from the 80s), is a Greek chorus for our current climate moment, riddled with conflict and crosstalk. It is the third sound work in a series inspired by the ‘70s, a decade that witnessed numerous energy and financial crises: Watergate, OPEC, gas shortages, droughts, and burning rivers, to name a few. With these events came a pervading sense of tumult, catastrophe, and anxiety. On the heels of the idealism of the late 60s, the 70s bore out not just a loss of innocence, but larger feelings of loss—of national cohesion, of control at a global scale. These feelings—familiar today—were powerful enough to ignite progressive change.

The environmental movement began in 1970, encouraging the writing and signing of NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act, which requires Federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of any significant Federal actions prior to making decisions. That same year, the Environmental Protection Agency was established, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was formed, and the Natural Resources Defense Council was created.

Growing up, I was glued to the radio every Saturday morning to listen to “America’s Top 40” — the national radio show by hosted by Casey Kasem playing the week’s top forty songs as rated on the Billboard pop charts. One of the program’s recurring segments was the “Long Distance Dedication.” 

Listeners sent in stories of love and longing to Kasem, requesting a song to be played for someone far away. It was the one moment in the otherwise mechanized process of the show that humanized my favorite songs in a surprisingly intimate way.

The work was made in collaboration with musician and composer Carla Khilstedt, and musician and producer, Carlos Alomar. Carla helped to shape the composition of the work, and rallied singers near and far to participate. Carla also sings in the piece, and is joined by the incredible vocals of Adrian Chabla, Kalyn Harewood, Carla Kihlstedt, Nina Rolle, Oscar Suh-Rodriguez, and Tom Weiser. Carlos has been working with me since 2020 to realize different versions of the work. He produced this work, and I am grateful for his expert ear and instincts in shaping the sonic space of this work.

A version of Long Distance Dedication No 3, Crosstalk is available for listening HERE

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Speaker outside of Stand4 Gallery. One of four broadcasting Long Distance Dedication No 3, Crosstalk into the public space. Photo courtesy Stand4 Gallery

About the artist:

Nancy Nowacek’s research-based and socially engaged practice deconstructs and reimagines social forms and systems. Process is her medium, and play is often a method for interrogation and intervention. Nowacek is currently the Community Engagement Fellow at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and served as WACTAC Artist-In-Residence at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (2020-2021). She co-founded art collective Works on Water in 2016 to expand the community of artists committed to making art in the urgency of climate change and increase advocacy for urban ecologies. She has been supported by a fellowship at Eyebeam (2014-16); and residencies with the Sharpe-Walentas program, Recess, Pioneer Works, and Montalvo. She has received project support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Elizabeth Graham Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, Zero1, and the Brooklyn Arts Council. She has shown work in the United States, Canada, China, the Netherlands, and Venezuela.

Bay Ridge Through an Ecological Lens April 15 – June 17, 2023 A Public Art Exhibition Curated by: Jennifer McGregor