"The Ever Changing Tide:
The Ecological Dynamics of the Earth's Oceans as Exemplified through the
Biodiversity of the Flushing New York Seafood Markets"
A Project by Brandon Ballengée 2000-2001
Courtesy the Artist and Archibald Arts
|The project involves the collection, identification,
and documentation of numerous species of aquatic organisms available
for consumption at various Flushing seafood markets. In December
of last year, I began to search the area for various species with
the intention of collecting each kind available. Each week the specimens
are documented and preserved. The Flushing markets each day sell
thousands of pounds of fish, mollusks, and other marine animals
from all over the world. As an artist interested in sustainable
ecosystems, these markets are amazingly and sometimes frightfully
|Fishing is an ancient human tradition. Seafood
is an important source of protein for hundreds of millions of people.
Over the past century, over-fishing, global climate change and the
introduction of competitive non-native species has caused decreased
biodiversity. As global trade has increased the international market
for seafood has excelled. Each year millions of tons of aquatic
fauna are harvested for food. In 1950, the annual catch was around
18 million tons. By 1986 the marine fisheries production level peaked
at 86 million tons. Today, catches are falling despite the fact
that expanding fleets are fishing more extensively. Companies are
spending more time, effort and money than ever before in trying
to maintain their quotas. Without allowing aquatic species the necessary
time to replenish themselves many important economically and biologically
important populations may soon vanish.
|The earth's waters and its inhabitants are constantly
being manipulated. In 1992, artist Mark Dion in his work "The Report
of the Department of Marine Animal Inventory of the City of New
York China Town Division" surveyed the China Town markets photographing
and identifying various species of fish. Almost a decade later,
many of the species Dion collected have suffered from population
declines and some have even become commercially extinct. Greenpeace
estimates that many decades of overfishing have put numerous species
in severe decline. Even conservative scientific institutions agree
the dynamic change in ocean ecology deserves attention.
|A special thank you to the following individuals
for their help with this project: Todd Gardiner, The Marine Biology
Department of Hofstra University for helping to identify species.
Mercedes Lee, The National Audubon Society's Living Ocean Program
for helping to edit text about various species. Peter Warny, Associate
Researcher, The New York State Museum for helping to preserve and
identify species. Martin Karon for photographic assistance. Moon
J. Lee, Monika Kumar, Roberto Medina, Hsu-Han Shang, Pedro Silva
and Gloria Schoenthal for their assistance with translating various
texts. All images are unique iris or digital prints. Iris printing
courtesy of The Institute for Electronic Arts, Alfred University.
Following the exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art, the specimens
will permanently enter the Ichthyology collections of the American
Museum of Natural History, The New York State Museum, and The Peabody
Museum at Yale University.