project image
Robin Michal

first performed on September 8, 2018
the south shore of Governors Island, New York, NY
performed four times in 2018


Paul Benney

New York, NY


“Sunk Shore” was a speculative, experiential tour of the future of Governors Island, a small island located just off the tip of lower Manhattan. In this participatory fantasy, we led participants along a route close to and on the south shore of Governors Island, time traveling into an extrapolated series of vignettes. We made stops in 2050, 2080, 2100, and 2150. Each vignette built an experiential picture of the future, based on a deep dive into current predictive data around climate change that was tailored specifically to the New York harbor, and to the expected terrain changes of Governors Island. The tour was approximately one hour long, and traveled one mile along the south side of the island.

We used sensory exercises, humorous props, storytelling, and group movement to give the audience an embodied experience of information that can seem very remote or abstract. In our framing we always used the present tense, so, for example, in 2050: “During the Great Awakening of 2025, there was a global deep shift to directly addressing the changing and increasingly chaotic climate. On Governors Island, one of the immediate effects was this series of canals you see here (pointing to the asphalt) that have replaced bike paths around the periphery of the island, along with those raised walkways. It’s a bit stinky, but it’ll get you where you want to go. Let’s take a paddle tour!” (Participants are then given fans, which are framed as a “multipurpose tool useful in any era,” but here serve as paddles, and all grab onto a large rope, which acts as a “boat.”) We engaged imaginative play as a tool for embodying data and giving the facts we shared weight and impact.

The events of the tour were based on research about events expected to take place (and already happening), including rising sea levels, changing animal species, higher heat, ingenious solutions, possible social revolutions, and more.