The Story of Water

The Erie Canal as a Site of Untold Stories


Water. It’s all about water. Water dissolves as much as it moves, fills, and gives life and such indeterminacy offers the space for a meditation on how lives and life along the Erie Canal are formed, transformed, deformed and reformed over time.

The waters of the Erie Canal moved goods, people, and therefore moved lives. But, the water didn’t always move people in the same way at all times. Indigenous people, poor people and, even, privileged people all felt the force of the water in different—and disparate—ways, as the water formed, reformed, and deformed lives through work, trade and displacement…To think with the force of water, is an invitation to tell a story about the cost of ‘progress’ in central New York.

Through these cast clay vessels we explore these marginalized histories that made the Canal possible. Formed from 3D scans of the Erie Canal locks, these vessels act as recording devices for the movement (and force) of the Erie Canal waters, forming and deforming the vessels. Their final forms express the de- and re-formation inherent in the construction, maintenance, and usage of the Canal, symbolic of the losses that inevitably occurred alongside the ‘progressive’ ingenuity and creativity that the Canal symbolized and, in some cases, still does symbolize.


Biko Mandela Gray

Project Team

Georgia Barrington, Fabrication RA; Dr.Jimmy Tran and the Ryerson University Library Collaborator, Technology Consultant; Amanda Liberty, UAV Fieldwork RA

This project is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by CNY Arts. This project is also funded by Ryerson FCAD and the Erie Canal Museum of Syracuse.