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September 17, 5:30 - 7 p.m.
South Water Street Bridge (near Hemenway's restaurant), Providence, RI
The Wild Colonial Tavern
250 South Water Street, Providence, RI 02903
Ellen Driscoll working with #2 plastic on a section of Distant Mirrors in a studio at The Steelyard, Providence, RI

AIC will produce an event in conjunction with the installation of Distant Mirrors in the Providence River. The event will include the official "launch" of the floating sculptures that constitute the piece as well as a "geographical tour" of the history behind and the local and global significance of Distant Mirrors by lead artist Ellen Driscoll and one of her collaborators on the project, Jennifer Smith, site manager of Roger Williams National Park in Providence.Afterwards, guests will be invited to join Driscoll, her collaboration team and AIC at The Wild Colonial, where light refreshments - including local tap water - will be available.

Statement Written by the artist, Ellen Driscoll:

We are in the epoch of simultaneity; we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed…of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein.
-- Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias.

The sculpture Distant Mirrors floats in the  Providence canal; an archipelago of forms.The l argest of these is a floating map of the 52 plots of land apportioned by Roger Williams to those who shared his conviction that church and state should be separate. This land, given to Williams under favorable terms by the Narragansetts, was distributed by him in such a way that no one would have advantage, or better land or water access, than any one else. Sadly, this utopian community was not immune from the economic and political pressures of it's time - stressed from within by individual profit seeking, and from without by increasing animosities caused by white colonization of native populations -- the community was eventually destroyed -- acting as a haunting tale for our own time.

A detail of Distant Mirrors by Ellen Driscoll

For the first few weeks in the canal, viewers see the map populated by “stone enders,”  the early architecture of those settlers 375 years ago, mingled with the indigenous architecture of the Narragansetts. After a few weeks, a sculptural switch is made, and the twenty-first century oil economy appears—an oil refinery, accompanied by the architectures at either end of the economic spectrum -- a McMansion, and the triple-deckers that house much of working-class New England.

Nearby float two islands in the shape of North America -- one an inverse image that mirrors the other. These two mirrored land-masses, at opposite ends of the interstitial water between two bridges, are surrounded by floating maps of the oil fields inVenezuela, Mexico, Canada, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, the five top sourcing countries for crude oil to the United States.

The Distant Mirrors maps are made from plastic bottles harvested from Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation located in Johnston, RIthe Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, 4.7 tons of which are collected daily in the smallest state in the country.  Created as a simple visual allegory for the predicaments of overconsumption and reckless profiteering at the  expense of egalitarian values, Distant Mirrors asks viewers to look at the butterfly effect of our simplest actions -- drinking milk or water from a plastic bottle, produced by oil. Who do we see in the distant mirror as we do so? Is it a guerilla fighting Shell Oil in Nigeria? Someone living next to the borreal forest of the tar sands in Alberta, Canada? Or an idealist almost 400 years ago who set out to create a new community founded on principles of equality and justice, a community whose internal fissures echo those stressing our social fabric and creating dramatic class divisions today?


 Ellen Driscoll is a Providence and New York-based artist who is currently head of the Sculpture Department at RISD. Ellen will be one of more than a dozen contributors to the first installment of AIC's Artists' Prospectus for the Nation, to be published in late 2012. As such, she and her team are currently building a Ellen Driscoll's assistants (l) Diane Hebbert and (r) Rose Heydt clean recovered #2 plastic bottles for use in Distant Mirrorswebsite and mobile app to be launched in conjunction with Distant Mirrors to provide historical, environmental, economic, political and social context for the installation. AIC is underwriting this endeavor with funds from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Distant Mirrors itself has been made possible by a Robert and Margaret McColl Johnson Fellowship awarded to Driscoll by the Rhode Island Foundation. Driscoll's collaboration team consists of Megan McLaughlin, Dianne Hebbert, Rose Heydt and Ponnapa Prakkamakul; sculpture production and installation were assisted by WaterFire/artist Barnaby Evans; and special thanks go to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation and Roger Williams National Park for materials and historical contributions, respectively.


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