The School Of Echoes.
by darla villani
The Domino Sugar Factory sat into the edge of Williamsburg’s waterfront like a man on death row.
It was built by the Havemeyer family in 1856, and by 1870 it was refining more than half of the sugar consumed in the United States, producing over 1,200 tons a day, ships delivered tons of cane sugar from all over the world to its Brooklyn port.
Look at it now, sitting high above the East River, it’s own abandoned civilization - now repurposed to collaborate with Kara Walker.
The work is entitled;
"Kara Walker - A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant"
What are the echoes of a monument erected, what are the echoes of a monument destroyed?
These were some of the frequencies that snaked between feet, that pulled and crashed history through the cavernous stadium interior, through memory, through bodies. These force fields initiated constant perceptual shifts to the matrix of histories initiated by Walker, the factory, countless ghosts and thousands of visitors that engaged in the event.
A mass work of metaphysical and subconscious choreography, it’s vivid flux kept the role of my participation and perception in flurries of reconfiguration.
The factory and Walker engineered a work that kept recasting space, place, testimony and witness.
In some pockets the atmosphere was rendered disturbingly “Disney” by visitors, in others it was a cathedral, aesthetic acquisition, a holy field, iPhone porn.
Could have been a check point for the gates of heaven, a holding tank for hell, the (un)promised land. White sugar becomes a mirror.
It’s known that the walls, floors and these sculptures have a very short shelf life here. There’s the shimmer of a funeral, there is an urgency to consume the space, to catalogue each visible thing. All is soon to be demolished, another re-enacted violence, another acquisition for the real estate revolution of Brooklyn. The workers, the workers, the workers. But, for now the space swells in preparation, gains speed and power.
The penetration of sugar or the revenge of sugar?
You breathed it in, it got into your skin. It was the Ash Wednesday of sugar and all visitors were marked.
The factory exhales a century of tainted sugar - you move through it - by the time you leave it’s written on the inside of the body.
Memory and subconscious are highlighted with the neon of - the trafficking, the trade, the murders.
The walls of the factory bled a dark raisin molasses, one hundred years of sugar.
The workers, the workers, the workers.
Look at her. In white.
She is a vessel, a teleport, a warning, The Intrepid. A visitation from the future. She is too vast for language.
The sugar boys - gentle, fierce, her loyal gatekeepers. They scan each visitor, gather data, demonstrate silent confrontations and deliver blessings.
You could feel it, you watched it happen.
Plantation labor - Industrial labor. The labor of women and of children.
Stories pressed out of the walls of the factory, there was silent testimony everywhere. There were things to learn everywhere.
Eyes dart up, and a crowd is corralling her. Looked like a still from King Kong that switched to Mary Shelley and I feel nauseous that I’m taking pictures, that I’m participating in this reacquisition. I exile myself and sit on the sidelines and try to follow this massive equation spinning and rolling in all directions.
The workers, the workers, the workers.
Notes on images:
I still feel ambivalent about posting these images. Perhaps this piece is now casting me as a perpetuator of false claims to authorship attached to the idea that these images are “mine”. The experience has evoked major reflection of the machine of acquisition and the repurposing of others suffering as aesthetic fodder.
"Kara Walker - A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant" is now closed.
More about the project - read on, watch.
The Domino Sugar Factory is being demolished for a 35 story waterfront luxury property.
Read on: Remembering the workers of the Domino Sugar Factory