Seeing through Water. Waster and Forgetfulness in Olin’s Pine Swamp, Hamden, Connecticut

By Leslie Ryan

The complicating and entangling discussions of nature, artifice, and mediation remain, although in this case of the Powder Farm, as is true in many other post-industrial, “used” landscapes, these questions are continually re-inserted into issues of exposure, secrecy and the impossibility of seeing what is at hand. The contradictions between the aesthetic surface and the invisible underworld are a problematic shared by many remediation, reclamation, and restoration projects. We use the surface to cover up an ugly reality, as when we construct a “cap and cover” over a landfill, or flood a malarial swamp with water. It’s a peculiar bequest to leave to future inhabitants of this place.We dream of living next to parks and wilderness, but the open space that we are more apt to get is a mound of pollutants, real or perceived, imprisoned by impermeable synthetic fibers and concrete slurry walls, then covered by a ruff of hardy grasses. This is what Bateson called “an ecology of bad ideas,” of self-propagating errors that position one species, the human one, for instance, “versus the environment in which it operates.”