Fracktured Lives: Art that asks, WTFrack?

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On Monday October 15th a group gathered in Albany to show their support of “responsible gas drilling” in New York. Apparently, hundreds marched to a park near the Capitol for speeches lead by elected officials and labor leaders. The group says that there are jobs being lost by the inability to frack. In this economy, many are left wondering why there is not more initiative by both private and government organizations to boost jobs. It may be true that fracking would create jobs, as well as decrease the cost of natural gas, but is it worth the trouble?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from deep within the earth. A special fracking fluid, made up of water and several chemicals is forced into the sediment in order break up the shale and create new open pockets for the natural gas. Through fracking, natural gas can be extracted at a much higher rate than traditional methods, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. This drilling process can take up to a month, while the drilling teams delve more than a mile into the Earth’s surface. Once created, these channels are cased in cement to prevent the gas from leaching into groundwater. Fool proof

You have most likely seen the viral videos of people lighting their faucets up in flame, which is said to be one of the many issues with fracking. While studies are still in process, it is believed that the chemicals used during the fracking process leach into groundwater, contaminating well and drinking water. These chemicals are toxic, leaving the water undrinkable as well as flammable–which leaves me to wonder how useful a fire-hydrant will be in a contaminated area during housing or wild fires. To further the issue of contaminated waters, we don’t even know what the chemicals are:

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“In 2005, the Bush/ Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It exempts companies from disclosing the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. Essentially, the provision took the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) off the job. It is now commonly referred to as the Halliburton Loophole. ” [Gaslands]

Being able to ignite your tap water should probably be enough reason to hold off on fracking, at least until proven or made safe. It gets better worse: It can take 1 million to 7 million gallons of water to free up natural gas during fracking [Gaslands]. Processed with chemicals, these millions of gallons become waste! The Earth is made up of mostly water, that doesn’t make it drinkable. And while I love Tank Girl as much as any 90s kid, unless my friend is a talking Kangaroo with serious rapping skills, a future without  proper drinking-water doesn’t seem very fun. We have technology to clean water, we can filter and purify salt water, one day we might even be able to purify that waste water back into drinking water but we can not eliminate the toxins in ground water.

all rights to images are reserved by the artist

Where we might be able to survive on clean bottled drinking water, how will plants and animals survive while drinking from polluted streams, lakes, and rivers? In turn, how will we eat?

What can we do?

Protest.

That is what a rather large group of artists are doing in the upcoming Bullet Space exhibition Fracktured Lives in LES NYC. Currently the work can be seen up at the School of Visual Arts, where the posters were printed, but the work will be on show at Bullet Space (292 E 3rd Street New York, New York 10009) for the month of November. The works are all silkscreened posters in editions of 50 at 20 x 23 inches. Each artist created a design commenting on Fracking, varying from the information heavy to a quick jab and great emblem of the movement against hydraulic fracturing.

There are some very beautiful images and moving pieces in the show, but more importantly these are works that will help make the Earth a healthier place for all life. Obviously, postering the city or displaying one of these designs in your window will not reign in energy businesses or even congress. However, it will begin a conversation. We need to stay informed about the toll we take on Earth. Is a larger resource of Natural gas worth polluting groundwater, let alone the convenience of clean water? We need to keep a dialogue open and assess the cost analysis of fracking on the state of communities and the world as a whole.

Or to put it simply, the power is yours!

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Written by Brad Silk

Brad Silk is an artist, curator, hedonist, and all-around unprofessional who has worked with several New York City galleries since 2007. He is Assistant Director at Cindy Rucker Gallery while pursuing independent curatorial projects. As an artist and curator with both commercial and not-for-profit spaces, he has a unique view into the art world which he uses to propound strong, eco-friendly art.

Upcoming curatorial projects include Wet: David Shoerner and Lyndsy Welgos at Cindy Rucker Gallery, opening June 8, 2013 and the permanent collection of Queens Community House, to unveil in August 2013.


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  • Monty

    Great column, great site. One thing I’d point out – Because of the ease of fracking, the lack of regulation, and leases ending there is actually a glut of natural gas in the U.S.
    The industry wants to extract as much as possible while the getting is good. If there is a crack down on the current practices it will get harder to get to the gas. They are actually hurting their own bottom lines in there mad dash to remove gas from the ground. There are reports that state we have so much being sucked out that they don’t know where to store it.

    • Brad Silk

      That is a great point Monty, thank you. It seems to be a reoccurring issue with how a lot of business is run in the United States. Have not heard about a surplus of natural gas, but have read similar reports about corn, milk, and even oil. Hopefully we will wise up and switch to clean and renewable resources in the near future.