Coagulation from Hurricane Sandy

A few class periods ago, Beth presented us with What We Saw When the Lights Went Out: A Portfolio from Hurricane Sandy  Many of the pictures are moving, both literally and figuratively. Excessive amounts of running water where it doesn’t belong is the subject of the first image, while the following images are more bleak and show stagnant water- the aftermath serving as a memorial to the catastrophic devastation. Some of these images are rendered black and white, perhaps as an artistic gesture towards depicting sorrow and hopelessness while showing contrast. However, other pictures alternatively tell a different, more heart warming story. These images show children huddled up on a couch, neighbors and strangers coming together to eat, and community members cooperating and sharing electricity. These stories are refreshing in that people coagulated and came together to survive and thrive, yet depressing in that people were constantly reminded of the traumatic event that brought them together.

As the forceful, violent process of Hurricane Sandy flooded parts of NYC and the surrounding areas, people coagulated around safe locations away from the water. The moving water, which encompassed the initial violence, became stagnant in flooded streets and basements as an effigy to remember the violent event which preceded it. One image of a flooded basement is particularly striking because of what is unknown. The image simply shows an entrance leading to the basement that is completely filled with stagnant, green water. However, there is no way to know what, or maybe who, was down there when it flooded. There is also a similar image with a couple inches of water coming up on a white door covered with sandbags. Contrasting these images, the first image shows the flooding of an urban center that is so extreme it looks like an ocean with waves. Where many of the other images are black and white, or generally bleak, the first one is entirely blue and almost mystic. It reminds me of “The Day After Tomorrow” in how it pays respect to how awesome (grand and strong, not good!) the storm was in some places. One image shows a helicopter in the air above what looks like a war zone, while several other ones show empty, seemingly abandoned homes and businesses.

Beginning the portfolio collection with an image of the violent storm in all its glory sets the necessary precedent for both the devastation and collective rebuilding efforts depicted in the wallowing images that follow. Based partially on Roach and in class discussions, I believe that remembering and accepting, rather than suppressing, traumatic memories can be cathartic, especially when the ramifications of people’s memories are expressed through art. When theoretically viewing the streets of New York from an aerial view immediately following Hurricane Sandy, the streets would be flooded as barriers and human settlements would coagulate and form as a result. Whether it be people coming together to charge devices, or cook food before it spoils and is wasted, this communal effort to help oneself and others perfectly fits within the conceptual narrative that “violence is the performance of waste” and “care is the antidote to violence.” The other portfolio Beth presented shows this aerial view seen here. The presence, and equal absence, of electricity demonstrates which areas were affected as the lights of cars light up otherwise dark streets, showing the movement of people in a still image.

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