"Ocean Cooling Station" is an installation and performance site-specific project that highlights the issue of global warming with a specific focus on the Earth’s warming oceans. The artwork entails me dressed in a U.S. Coast Guard uniform taking a sign, two cones, a step stool ladder and a bucket of ice to the beach and designating it as an Ocean Cooling Station. In the work, which is apparent on the sign I created, I welcome the public to join me in cooling the sea by bringing ice cubes to the beach and dropping them in the water. I present the concept as an instructional performance that is urgent and open to all who have access to the sea, wherever they are. I brought 40 pounds of small ice cubes and a ten pound, large ice block to the beach to execute and document the demonstration. I wanted to present a time where global warming was so dire that the U.S. Coast Guard’s purpose has transitioned from governing nautical vessels to a crucial force in the fight against global warming. The idea of the sea being so warm that the adoption of an anything-will-help attitude by government agencies and the public would not be far fetched. In our current thoughts on the vast expanse of the ocean, dumping ice cubes in the sea is a futile endeavor. Could the issue so advance that even this small of an activity would be welcomed, facilitated and followed en masse? Even in my execution of this work, people approached me to inquire about what I was doing and offering their support in taking care of the environment.
My intent with this site specific project was to explore two phases of the site specific movement outlined in Miwon Kwon’s article: Social and Discursive. The initial artwork at the beach represents the social paradigm of site specificity, fitting in seamlessly with the definition of the approach, which “tend to treat aesthetic and art-historical concerns as secondary issues…this expanded engagement with culture favors ‘public’ sites outside the traditional confines of art” (91). The environment is a social concern and, in my project, I chose to center the work around this social issue, and focus on accessibility as a component of the means of execution, rather than a formal and typical art presentation location. This approach shifts the perception of the beach from a place of pleasure to a center for public social action. Extracting this dimension out of the site is what I consider the first phase of the work. The second and third phases shift from the social paradigm into the discursive paradigm.
I have produced physical photographs documenting my installation and repurposed them as invitations for individuals to participate in creating their own cooling station wherever they have access to the Sea. I also created a physical visual guide that depicts sequential steps to execute the cooling station for those who wish to participate. Conceptually, these invitations and visual guides would be disseminated to a larger swath of the public in a fashion where it would be difficult for me to track the rate and scale of participation. My crafting of the original site specific work into an iterative, interactive structure and ongoing experience that invites outsiders as participants, cements this portion of the work as a representation of the discursive paradigm. As Kiwon explains, “The deterritorialization of the site has produced liberatory effects… introducing the possibilities for the production of multiple identities, allegiances and meanings, based…on the nonrational convergences forged by chance encounters and circumstances” (109).
Kwon, Miwon. "One Place after Another: Notes on Site Specificity." October 80 (1997): 85-110.