Gala Opening for Neversink Transmissions: Documentation + Ephemera at Old Stone House

On October 2nd, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., the public is cordially invited to the gala opening of “Neversink Transmissions: Documentation + Ephemera” at the Old Stone House in Hasbrouck,  New York.  This month-long exhibition will document the process of assembling the public art project Neversink Transmissions, by 2011 Wildcat Fellows Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer. Sculptural objects, audio, video, photography and other archived materials related to the project’s development will be on display.

Viewers can expect to see color-coded branches gathered from the banks of the Neversink, sketchbook pages and interview transcripts, and large-format prints of photographs made during the project.

The public audio archive will be available for visitors to explore. Additional relevant works from the artists’ practice will also be on view, such as Irons’ watershed drawings and Phiffer’s inquiry-based net projects.

The exhibition at the Old Stone House documents Neversink Transmissions, a site-specific work located at Denning Town Hall along the east branch of the Neversink River. The art project combines a sculpture built of driftwood and a media element the artists call “situated net art” that allows visitors to access an archive of community-generated knowledge about the river.

“Neversink Transmissions” was sponsored by the Wildcat Fellowship Program in partnership with the Neversink-Rondout Stream Management Program.

The Old Stone House is at 282 Hasbrouck, NY.  The reception for “Neversink Transmissions: Documentation + Ephemera” features a gala wine and cheese reception and is free to the public.

Bob Garrett, Peter Martin, Mark Sherman at opening for exhibit of work by 2010 Wildcat Fellow Andrea Jenkins with guest artist Emily Brown.

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Dan and I had an excellent visit to the Catskills this past weekend, where we installed our opening at the Old Stone House in Hasbrouck. Dan edited together a video about the process of putting the project together, which is now on I also edited together 3 more audio pieces for the site, and Dan finished a few more changes to the interface, so even if you’ve already visited the site, it’s work a second trip! Below, a screen shot from the new interface. Photos from the opening of the exhibition coming soon!

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After Irene…

The residency of 2011 Wildcat Fellows Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer ended on July 24th. Hurricane Irene struck Claryville soon after. The Denning, Frost Valley, and Peekamoose roads were flooded, as were homes and businesses in the valley. Town Hall was an island in the boiling stream. Power and phone service were interrupted.  When the flood waters receded, the Neversink Transmissions tower created by Irons and  Phiffer was still standing.

Photograph by Peter Martin

The Denning Road has been largely restored, but the Frost Valley and Peekamoose roads have not. Many home-owners are still struggling to recover.

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The Tower

Sited at the Denning Town Hall on the eastern branch of the Neversink, the Transmission Tower is built from driftwood gathered along the banks of the river during our two week stay. The pieces are joined together with wooden dowels. The color-coding represents the various parts of the river system from which the wood was gathered. Blues and greens are the confluence and below, while pinks and reds represent the east branch and yellows the west branch.

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Although we’re no longer in the Catskills, we have plenty of audio to work with over the next few weeks, so the site is continuing to grow. We just finished editing some material from our trip to Carolyn Summers’ Trillium Arboretum. Visit to hear Carolyn describe her love of trees and interest in native planting.

On the technology front, we’re beginning some research into solar options for keeping our radio broadcast of Neversink Transmissions running. We’re also still working on the analog phone line to Asterisk system, as Dan described in his last post. More on that soon, I hope! Below, Patrizia and Ellie entering the grounds of Trillium Arboretum.

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Neversink Telephony

As Ellie wrote in the last blog post, we gave an in-progress tour of the sculpture site on Sunday. It was a great success! We’ve made amazing progress in the last two weeks, between the sculpture and community interviews, but the technology side of things is still a work-in-progress. Our residency here in Claryville is coming to a close, but work will continue on a couple key aspects of the technology leading up to our exhibition in October.

What I’ve been able to get working so far is pretty close to what we’d originally proposed; a local wireless network that provides access to the archive and a short-range radio broadcast of our audio material (more on that soon!).

The element that’s still missing, but important to the project, is a telephone interface for collecting new material and listening to what we have so far. While the web interface is definitely the best way to hear the interviews with accompanying photos, access to fast enough internet connections here in the Catskills is far from common. But telephones, of the land line variety, are ubiquitous here. Offering the opportunity to call in to the project over a local land line would allow much wider participation, and would allow us to continue growing our archive while Ellie and I are back in New York City.

The basis for this system is a popular Open Source program called Asterisk. It’s the Swiss army knife of phone systems, it can do almost anything related to voice telephony. In recent years its most popular mode of operation is Voice Over IP (VoIP). VoIP is kind of like Skype, it’s inexpensive for long distance calls but requires fast internet access.

Asterisk also allows you to plug into an analog phone jack using a special expansion card for a PC. The advantage of this analog approach is that people nearby can call into your local number for free. Back in the mid-90s, before VoIP and widespread broadband adoption, this was the best option available for a small business wanting to run a customer support line. Unfortunately as internet-based telephony has exploded in popularity, its analog counterpart has received less attention. As a result, building the phone system was a bit more challenging than I’d expected.

Analog telephone jack installed in the server.

I did manage to get the expansion card working on the Linux server I’d brought up, but frustratingly it would stop working unexpectedly. After looking through the troubleshooting documentation, I’ve diagnosed the problem as being related to IRQ interrupts, an archaic low-level component of computer hardware. Specifically, the card needs a dedicated IRQ number, and it was sharing one with the Ethernet networking card. One solution for this type of IRQ conflict is to simply move the card to a different slot on the motherboard. And, alas, my server only has a single slot.

So I’m going to try again with a different computer once I get back to Brooklyn. I’m still hopeful that with a little more tinkering I’ll be able to sort out the technology needed for the community phone line. I’ll update the blog with my progress!

The Asterisk expansion card.

A new possibility for the server for the telephony portion of the project. It's an older machine with several slots, enough to provide for a dedicated IRQ number.

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Neversink Transmissions Public Tour

Yesterday afternoon close to 40 people from the Claryville community and beyond came out for our work-in-progress tour of Neversink Transmissions. Patrizia and Peter of the Wildcat Fellowship Program put together a lovely afternoon program. We met at the Denning Town Hall, where there were comments by town Supervisor Bill Bruning and Neversink town historian Carol Smythe, poetry readings on the theme of the Catskills and water, and presentations about the upcoming native plantings that will accompany our sculpture on the grounds of town hall. The presentations were followed by a delicious ice cream social on the banks of the Neversink!

Wildcat curator Patrizia Eakins introducing the program for the afternoon.

Supervisor Bill Bruning addressing the group.

Town Historian Carol Smythe describing her connections to the east and west branches of the river.

During our presentation, Dan and I shared our backgrounds as artists, and discussed the process of building the sculpture and gathering interview material. We also covered the range of technology that makes the project possible (Dan is working on a series of posts on this topic that should be published in the next day or so). Throughout the afternoon we were broadcasting a local wireless network that allowed visitors to log on to We also managed to get our hyper-local radio running (thanks ExiTrip!). Visitors were able to tune their car radios to 91.5 and receive Neversink Transmissions within a quarter mile or so of the sculpture site. This addition was exciting for all of us! Overall, the afternoon was a huge success, and we are so grateful for the assistance of the Wildcat Fellowship Program, Karen Rauter and the Stream Management Program, and of course all generous community members who were willing to share time and stories with us. We look forward to seeing the project develop over the next few months.

Dan describing his computer science background, and how it led him to art making.

Yes, it supports weight!

Meredith Maglio of the Stream Program presents the plans for the native buffer planting that will serve as a demonstration plot for the Catskill Streams Buffer Iniative.

A detail of our ExiTrip radio set up, broadcasting Neversink Transmissions!

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