Cargo, Way-points, and Tales of the Erie Canal is part of evolving exhibitions related to the Erie Canal, curated by the Trans-Empire Canal Corp (TECCORP) and the Burchfield Penney Art Center. TECCORP consists of six artist/curators that began meeting in 2012, with the idea to use the Erie Canal as a lens to consider the connections between communities, contemporary art, history and communication. Just as the Erie Canal took over seven years to construct, the TECCORP team and the Burchfield Penney continue our conversations.
In 2014, the partnership presented the exhibition, Displacement. In the largest gallery of the Burchfield Penney, a simulated, 120’ x 39’ canal barge was constructed and outfitted with galleries for exhibiting art. In these spaces, questions of commodity, aesthetics, inclusion and value were considered and formed the platform for which artists’ works were curated. The result was a mish-mash of the varied possible items one might ship, value or encounter in a world of interaction and engagement and ways that community connects, facilitated by the Erie Canal.
In New York State, there are over 170 historical markers related to the Erie Canal. These include the notation of canal locks, but more frequently for factoids like, “Only road under the Erie Canal in Ripley's Believe It or Not. Culvert built in 1823,” for The Culvert Road in Ridgeway, NY. Another example is, “Site of Queen Anne Chapel, Built 1711-12 for use of Mohawk Indians. Torn down 1821 to make way for Erie Canal…,” in Fort Hunter, NY. Whether for relics no longer in existence, or facts confirmed by Ripley’s and the like, history—and our remembrance of it—continuously evolves.
Artist/curators Erika Abbondanzieri, Julian Montague, AJ Fries, Kate Gaudy, Dietrich Olivier Delrieu-Schulze, and Brian Larson Clark have created truthy versions—hypothetical and real possibilities of places and sights of significance related to the Erie Canal—that one might encounter in our contemporary world.
Installed throughout the museum are videos, sculptures, paintings, banners and ephemera that provide a context for considering the Erie Canal, encountered in the same way that visitors might stumble upon the historical markers that point to areas of relevance near the Canal.