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Hudson River Fugues

Hudson River Fugues
June 2009-March 2010
Site specific installation for Lives of the Hudson exhibition at the Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York

Co-curated by Ian Berry and Tom Lewis
Group exhibition with site-specific mixed-media installation by Margaret Cogswell

In his Musices poeticae praeceptiones of 1613, Johannes Nucius defined a fugue as “the frequent and definite recurrence of the same theme in various parts which follow each other in spaced entrances.”

Hudson River Fugues is part of a series of ongoing River Fugues projects which use the musical structure of a fugue as a conceptual point of departure to weave together the disparate visual and audio components exploring the interdependency of people, industry and river waters.

Hudson River Fugues (2009) juxtaposes stories from people along the river with Henry Hudson’s disillusionment in not finding a short passage to China. It also contrasts Henry Hudson's journey with the tragedy of the Native Americans whose ancient prophecy promised that their nomadic journeys would end in peace and prosperity when they found a great stream whose waters flows two ways. The installation was sited in the entrance to the Tang Museum and layered the view from the window with video projections onto the glass panels on either side of the entry doors. Shutters, custom-made for each set of the windows, housed speakers from which the narratives accompanying the video emerged. Benches in front of each window invited the viewer to look out at the layered landscape and “eaves drop” on the river’s stories which emerged from each of the shutters.

Video footage was shot from the Saugerties Lighthouse and on a 10-hour journey down the Hudson from Albany Manhattan on the Adirondack schooner. Narratives collected include those from shad fishermen, ice boat sailors, lighthouse keepers, boat captains, regional historians, climate historians and observations recorded in the Hudson River Almanac published weekly by the New York State Department of Conservation.