Memory Flow: Water of Boston is both an art installation, a performance and a movement. The Talking Wings (then the Metonymy Collective) used historical memory as a catalyst to unite communities in the face of climate change. Art serves as the thread that unifies the complex storylines of the Swift River Valley in Western Massachusetts. The Swift River Valley, also known as the Quabbin Valley, is now home to the Quabbin Reservoir: the source of Greater Boston’s drinking water. The water that Bostonians drink flows over a history of colonization and forced evacuation. The artists utilize their creations to ask an essential question: What histories have been drowned when the Swift River Valley was dammed.
The artist collective will first explore the alternate histories of the invasion of "New England" by the English colonizers. Through conversations and collaborative installations, we will delve into the narratives of depopulation, the violent eviction of Indigenous Nations and their surrounding environment.
Western Massachusetts itself has been scarred by multiple conflicts over land and resources. The Quabbin Valley was at the center of many of these conflicts. The Quabbin valley was the theater where many of these atrocities were committed and was subsequently settled by the colonizers. The settler towns of the Swift River Valley slowly expanded, until they were eyed by increasingly thirsty Bostonians. Engineers from the Harvard School of Engineering pushed for the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir, which would erase the towns of Prescott, Dana, Greenwich, and Enfield from the map.
After extensive lobbying from Boston, the leadership of the town slowly surrendered to the eastern center of power. The Great Depression was the final deathblow. The valley slowly depopulated, and in the end,the Water Board forcibly bought out the four towns, as well as part of New Salem. The Swift River Valley slowly died; the woods were logged, the buildings torn down or moved and the people were constrained to look for a livelihood and homes elsewhere. It took seven years for the valley to be flooded. In the meantime, the air force used the wasteland for target practice.
In 1939, the Swift River Valley was no more. In its place was Boston's main source of drinking water and a watershed area cultivated into a wilderness. The "accidental wilderness" allowed wildlife to flourish, though the forestry department carefully trimmed the unwanted elements (such as deer and seagulls). The history that the water covers isn’t static. Under the surface lies the systematic oppression of the "other" and the periphery.
In connecting these histories, art and research intermingle. Digging to compile a coherent story-line, the artists are weaving together a series of exhibitions in which interactive installations and nontraditional methods of storytelling bring the untold stories to the surface. Traveling from Boston to Western Massachusetts, haunting buildings and hosting panel discussions, Talking Wings opens the door for people to come together and rediscover a history with many missing pieces. These missing pieces will then be collectively woven together, laying the groundwork for future action.
Exhibitions / Performances / Conferences
A Two Day Conference in South Deerfield, MA. April, 2018
Goddard College, VT. March, 2018
XFest Mass. 2018, Dorchester Art Project, Boston, MA. Feburary, 2018
As mentioned previously, for this project Talking Wings went by it's previous name, the Metonymy Collective. To make this project happen, TZINTZUN and Blake Lavia worked with co-artists: Aly Gear, Kiah Raymond, Harry Barrick, Pam Acosta, Marie Nicholson, Deane Silsby and Marci Diamond.
The performers in the pictures are Marci Diamond, Deane Silsby, Aly Gear and TZINTZUN.
Video and Photography for this project was captured by Blake Lavia.