Critic: Abeer Seikaly
Phragmites (Phragmites australis) dominates the Quinnipiac Tidal Marsh. Considered an invasive monoculture, Phragmites is an effective mediator of the heavy metals that plague the formerly industrial Quinnipiac River. Despite providing this function, the tidal wetland remains alienated and isolated from the surrounding city. The sole point of public access to the wetlands is an overlook trail accessible from the parking lot behind Target and Buffalo Wild Wings in the North Haven Pavilion Shopping Center. The land is owned by the state of Connecticut andódespite advocacy efforts spearheaded by the Quinnipiac River Partnership and The New Haven Bird Clubóthere have been no substantive restoration plans since 2004.
Given the stalemate at the state level, this project engages directly with marsh to imagine opportunities for public engagement with the tidal marsh beyond just recreation and observation. Rather than accept phragmites as invaders, I considered it a material source from which to cast paper.
At the site I cut and harvested Phragmites. Also on the tidal marsh is a Goodwill outlet where I sourced used rice cookers, deep fryers, bread makers, and blenders which I used to render Phragmites into a viable paper pulp. Cued into the culture of hand papermaking by Lillian Bellís landmark Plant Fibers for Papermaking, I made a Phragmites recipe bookóthe recipe book being a common form of knowledge sharing in the papermaking community. The result of the project is a matrix of sheets indexed to that recipe book. The 80 varieties I developed demonstrate the material capacity of this reed source to yield divergent forms and images.