I tagged along on an art film project my museum (MASS MoCA) is sponsoring, and it turned out to be a workout on the AI.
Backstory: The British artist Simon Starling is making an new work of art called Strip Canoe (African Walnut), a piece that investigates the 1909 expedition to North Eastern Congo by scientist and photographer Herbert Lang. Sent on a biological survey by NY's American Museum of Natural History, Lang is perhaps best known for his first-ever photographs of the Okapi, an elusive animal related to the giraffe.
Starling has referenced the Okapi's black, brown, and white markings in the stripes of a hand built canoe the artist is using for an elaborate river voyage, which was the occaision of today's adventure. Constructed in the manner of tradition New England cedar strip canoes (which are themselves derived from Native American birch bark canoes), the artist used African hardwoods instead of cedar, transforming the canoe into something of a hybrid: part African, part American, part camouflage, part sculpture, part vessel.
As beautiful as it is, ultimately the canoe is a prop for a film project that conflates Lang's 1909 journey on the Congo and Ituri rivers (made during Belgium's violent rule over the African region), with a new river excursion down the Hoosic River (which flows through our museum's campus, in North Adams, MA) to its confluence with the Hudson River just north of Albany, and then down the Hudson, through the Albany locks and then another 125 miles of amazing scenery to New York City. At the end of the project the artist and his film crew will land at 72nd street in Manhatten, and then portage the canoe to Central Park, an elaborate return of the okapi stripes, and Lang, to the American Museum of Natural History. Convoluted, I know, but it'll be quite beautiful, and the overlay of North American/Native American history with colonial Africa is interesting.
Anyhow, I tagged along for today's film segment, which extended from the town of Hudson, to Kingston NY, some 25 miles to the south. And wouldn't you know it, not a breath of wind all day. Nothing. The mighty Hudson was like glass. My brilliant idea to use the AI as a support vehicle back-fired.
Simon's exquisite canoe was fast and light, and we had another support canoe -- an Old Town -- which also moved well under double paddles. I must say, the weight and drag of of the AI made it a challenge to keep up for the full day.
And another thing: When they say the Hudson is a tidal estuary, they mean it: we made the first 21 miles in about 4.5 hours, as the tide was going out, draining the Hudson into the Atlantic. But then it turned to a flooding tide, overwhelming the current with a net "reversing" vector (it is so interesting to experience a north flowing river in North American!), and the last 4 miles took another 4 hours of hard slogging. I had the AI loaded down with provisions and ice and water (lunch was my job), and boy, was I bemoaning the fact that I had bet on wind. Our i14T would have been dandy (with a bowman). Or stripped down to an A, the AI would have been fine: but as a fully loaded AI, dragging useless Amas and sail, it was all I could do to keep up with that beautiful handmade wooden canoe, with two people paddling. I did it, more or less, but my knees may never be the same.
But oh, was it some serious adult fun, and with just a bit of breeze, the Hudson would be a blast with the AI. It's breadth would allow for excellent sailing. Gotta watch the tankers though.