Image: Kenzie Allen

Artist’s statement

Ethnography: Staten Island Ferry

I spent a long afternoon shuttling back and forth on the ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island and constructed this piece out of found recordings, inspired by the—oftentimes profoundly banal—commute, which assumes a radically different energy only when the ferry passes handsome Lady Liberty. As an “ethnography,” an ostensibly factual mode of representation, the piece is meant to probe the point of rupture at which fiction emerges out of reality. The Latin past participle fingere denotes a process of devising and shaping; the thirteenth-century ficcion roughly translates to the English rouse or invention. In devising a fiction, then, I’m seeking to reveal without explanation and to present without representing, to make without necessarily making up.

Nietzsche argues in The Gay Science that our desire for knowledge compels us to overturn everything “strange, unusual, and questionable,” to the extent that knowing presupposes the banal. “What is familiar means what we are used to so that we no longer marvel at it, our everyday,” Nietzsche writes, “some rule in which we are stuck, anything at all in which we feel at home.” What is familiar is “more easily knowable” and closer to our “inner world” than the strange, which eludes our understanding and remains “outside us.” How can ethnography, then, elucidate and depict its subject without relegating it to the sphere of the world we already know? How can we come to “know” something without losing the ability to marvel at it? This piece is an attempt to intensify both the lovely and the mundane, in order to defamiliarize both such that we can continue to marvel at them.


Morgan Childs

Morgan Childs is a writer and editor based in Prague. She can be reached on Twitter and at her website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *