Marie Lorenz: An Explorer in the New Wilderness

2_ML_Tide  and Current taxismSix months after my experience with Marie Lorenz’s Tide and Current Taxi, I interviewed her in her Bushwick, Brooklyn, studio.

Thanks to her father and uncle, Lorenz spent much of her childhood in canoes and feels at home on the water. “I grew up this way,” she said, “so when I see water I think, you can get to the other side. You can be in there at night.” It is important to her to share the experience with others, helping them discover forgotten or neglected public space, particularly water. 

Some of Lorenz’s passengers have said they don’t think of her work as art, but more as a journalistic or photojournalistic endeavor. She revels in this project’s ambiguity and views providing a service as part of a current art movement that defies commodification. She travels seamlessly between Superfund sites and bird sanctuaries, encouraging participants to form their own opinions based on their experiences in the boat. 

Although she considers those who ride along in the boat her co-creators in the process, Lorenz remains in control of the experience. She is the one who knows the rules in what she refers to as “the zone,” the sometimes treacherous waterways of urban New York through which she transports viewers. Lorenz’s power and confidence in urban waters is still uncommon for a female explorer in the twenty-first century. She creates the narrative and activates it through the connection she establishes among herself, the participants, and the landscape itself.

Lorenz downplays the fact that she is a female artist, but it nonetheless changes how the work is received. Noting that male exploration is tied to a history of conquest and destruction, Lorenz said she deliberately uses language like mission and exploration on her website. “If I were a man it would suggest militarism and colonialism, but because I am a woman, dominance is taken out of the equation.” She continued, “I can say ‘exploration’ and people think ‘beachcombing.’” Lorenz feels that her gender allows for a more neutral connection to the landscape in which she travels.

Lorenz doesn’t consider Tide and Current Taxi environmental art per se, but she did admit, “I have never been in an interview situation or spoken about the project to students or an audience where people didn’t ask, ‘Is this is an environmental project?’ And so that means yes—it is.” But hers is not activist art intended to motivate viewers into doing something about pollution out of fear or disgust; rather, Tide and Current Taxi aligns with author and political theorist Jane Bennett’s ideas: that nonhumans and all other material—even toxic matter—are vibrant.


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