A series of brown-bag lunchtime reading sessions, featuring texts inspired by Maria Thereza Alves’s project for the group exhibition Agora. These events are an opportunity to meet staff from different High Line departments, and hear their varied insights into Alves’s ballast flora research. Join staff from the Education Department for the May 23 session, staff from the Horticulture Department for the July 25 session, and High Line Network staff on September 19.
Maria Thereza Alves (b. 1961, São Paulo, Brazil) addresses the relationship between imperialism, conquest, and the erasure/silencing of indigenous people. A Ballast Flora Garden: High Line is one of three gardens that are part of Maria Thereza Alves’s Seeds of Change: New York—A Botany of Colonization, which unearths historical ballast sites and ballast flora that has traveled to New York City by trade ship ballast over the past two centuries. Earth, stones, sand, wood, bricks, and whatever else was economically expedient was used as ballast to stabilize merchant ships in relationship to the weight of their cargo. Upon arrival in port, the ballast was unloaded, carrying with it seeds native to the area where the ballast had been picked up. Over the past two centuries, more than 400 species of plants were brought over by ships and were growing on ballast grounds throughout New York, from where they have spread further since.
To understand this history, Alves has worked with horticultural experts and local communities at Pioneer Works, the High Line, The New School, and Weeksville Heritage Center to research the ballast flora and the stories it tells about migration, commodification, and valuation. It is an ongoing investigation in numerous port cities realized previously in: Marseille, France; Reposaari, Finland; Liverpool, UK; Exeter and Topsham, UK; Dunkirk, France; and Bristol, UK.
Image: Maria Thereza Alves, A Ballast Flora Garden: High Line, 2018. Part of Agora, a High Line Commission. On view April 2018 – March 2019. Photo by Timothy Schenck