Projects on Nothingness
For this project, I sought out a barren island, the most isolated setting I could possibly imagine. After searching for a suitable site for an entire summer, I eventually found a small nameless ledge off the coast of Deer Isle in Maine accessible by kayak, where I could work completely undisturbed. I named it Nothingness, and returned for the following two summers.
On Nothingness, I wanted to address issues of survival, both physical and psychological, and of sustainability. The difficulties of working on a barren island, constantly swept by the wind and surrounded by cold ocean tested my endurance, willpower and physical resistance. The more I worked on Nothingness, the more I learned that the biggest lesson was "surrender" to the elements.
My first task was to make the island hospitable by cleansing it of the guano left by seagulls. I constructed a broom from branches harvested on a neighboring island and performed a daylong cleansing ritual.
A series of Water Collection Projects addressed modes of collecting, purifying and storing water, which was crucial to my survival. I experimented with various techniques, one being a version of a solar still, distilling salt water into drinkable (but not great tasting) water. In the end, collecting rain proved to be the most effective way to obtain drinking water. Since we are often told to drink eight glasses of water a day, I decided to set up eight glasses and wait for the rain to fill them. I drank them one after the other.
For food, I gathered periwinkles, mussels, fished for mackerel and harvested seaweed. For shelter, inspired by the skillfully engineered bird's nests on many of the surrounding islands, I built a large nest, which unsurprisingly did not offer much protection.