UNSEEN is a multimedia art installation that examines the mutilation of our environment and, in turn, ourselves. This installation is deeply personal for me. My brother Joe was diagnosed with multiple myeloma when he was just 41 years old. Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that eats away at your bones. Joe lives on a block in Niagara Falls that sits at the edge of Love Canal in a neighborhood with house after house of families dealing with life-threatening cancers and diseases. More than 40 years after toxic waste from Love Canal destroyed this neighborhood, people from the Niagara region continue to suffer from the chemicals of Niagara’s continued industrial legacy.
For this installation, I interviewed 18 residents from many different contaminated areas of Niagara County. I wanted to fill the space at the Burchfield Penney Art Center with a soundscape of their interwoven voices and dark personal stories. These voices are the heart of UNSEEN.
UNSEEN is a spoken-word symphony that brings into focus the sights and smells that people experienced while living on this toxic land as they share the physical and emotional burden of their environment. Each voice describes how they have been affected by toxins inside their own homes. The stories, which span decades to the present day, reveal a haunting similarity in their experiences: the degradation of the relationship they have with their home and their surrounding environment.
In the middle of this vast, dimly lit space in the museum, a typical 1920s bungalow house is brought into focus by a glow of light. Upon close inspection, you will notice the house is made entirely of soil. This house is a home. It’s the place where people live out their lives – eat, play, talk, watch TV and garden — it’s the one place where people should feel safe and in control. It’s also an investment and a prison. It’s the thing you least expect to be poisoning your family.
With UNSEEN, I will take you behind the beauty of what the world sees when they think of Niagara Falls and into the stories of those who live in the shadow of this region’s interminable industrial history.
More information at: UNSEEN Voices