Projects > Manhattan Go

Three-channel video, four-channel audio
Filmed by: Michael Mastromarino
Performance venue: The Watermill Center, New York, USA
I staged this performance at the Watermill Center (Long Island, New York) in the summer of 2022, right as the covid travel restrictions were beginning to be eased. Sag Harbor is a port town in Southampton (Long Island) that flourished through whaling. The design of the structure used in the performance is based on the whaling ship Manhattan, which departed from Sag Harbor in 1843.

Manhattan was, in 1845, the first US ship to formally enter the Bay of Edo (Tokyo), after over two hundred years of isolation under the Tokugawa Shogunate. It came to return 22 Japanese sailors rescued from a shipwreck in the waters off Tori-shima in the Pacific. The ship’s captain, Mercator Cooper, was the first American to officially visit Edo (although he wasn’t permitted to disembark), and he returned to America with detailed maps of Japan recovered from the wreck. It is said that Matthew C. Perry relied on these maps when he led the East Indian Squadron to the Bay of Edo to force the opening of Japan. (Ironically, although everyone in contemporary Japan knows of Perry and his cannons, there are very few people who know of the goodwill displayed by Mercator Cooper towards Japan).

The pandemic forced us into isolation for roughly two years. Debates raged in every country—like the Tokunaga Shogunate in the mid-19th century—over whether to continue travel restrictions. In this performance, my American friends and I slowly raise “The Manhattan” and celebrate that the distance between us has once again been lessened.