Provisional Flood Club focused on the development of a temporary, social club as a curatorial framework for artworks, projects, and events that worked to re-imagine forms of collective, social interaction and mutual aid and support. The project presented a relationship between the rich history of labor halls, mutual aid societies, and non-commercial social clubs and bars in the neighborhood and the the Grand River's capacity to annually flood the low-elevation neighborhood we were situated every spring, just like it did over 100 years ago. The semester-long project culminated in a membership drive, an exhibition of artworks, a workshop and public performance, and a moderated conversation about clubs and social organizations.
The Provisional Flood Club presents a temporary social framework to imagine resistance and transition away from the hostile political, social, economic, and environmental situation that has taken form in contemporary society. In times of urgency, vulnerability, and precarity, the Provisional Flood Club imagines, investigates, and practices mutual support.
As a highly symbolic and temporary gesture, the Provisional Flood Club attempts to create a space in which re-imagination of social life can take place. This is perhaps all the more important with increasing commercialization and commodification of social and cultural activities. Although the project is temporary, it is also provisional in the sense that the social framework being constructed is shareable and may re-emerge later (perhaps next spring when the flood returns), adaptable to many social situations and contexts.
Across time and cultures, floods have appeared in various folk tales, narratives, myths, and stories, literally and figuratively representing aspects of life, culture, and history. What winter brings every season, spring melts away. Over 100 years ago, the Grand River rose to approximately 20 feet, flooding the entire West Side neighborhood, and in 2013, Grand Rapids experienced similar flooding resulting from almost 22 feet of water. The flood is representative of urgency and vulnerability.
Individuals are tired, isolated, and pacified, drowning in precarious emotional and physical states. Social, recreational, and public spaces are becoming increasingly privatized, surveilled, and commercialized. Social media and the internet attempt to simulate the characteristics of community, but obviously fall short in virtual space. People are increasingly divided over issues of class, ethnicity, gender, and race, to name just a few. The club is representative of mutual aid and support.
As the climate changes, gentrification occurs, and feelings of anxiety and loneliness set in more intensely and frequently, the sense of vulnerability, urgency, and precarity that flood brings will play a larger role in collective imaginaries. Perhaps, as the Provisional Flood Club poses, this vulnerability will not be that which is our downfall, but it will be that which unites us across cultural, ideological, and class divides.
The Civic Studio project at Showroom (428 Bridge St) began in January and continued through the end of April 2014. Civic Studio is a project of the Department of Art and Design at Grand Valley State University. For more on Civic Studio: civicstudio.org.