Wednesday, December 12, 2018


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EELS in the Olneyville Square??


6 – 7:30pm
Artist Talk / Interview

Artist Daniella Ben-Bassat in conversation with Cody Ross
Supported through the Art Culture and Tourism department, as part of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Arts project, the Dirt Palace will be commissioning artists to make new work in conversation with the river, its history, and the future plans for the neighborhood greenway, October 2018 - July 2019.
Our first event “EELS in Olneyville Square? PROOF!!” Features the installation by artist Daniella Ben-Bassat in our Storefront Window Gallery. Join us while she talks about her work and research into the eels in the Woonasquatucket.

Daniella Ben-Bassat's eels installation in the Dirt Palace Storefront Window Gallery
Watch the Video
Daniella Ben-Bassat is an artist and musician based out of Providence, Rhode Island. With an interest in making paintings, music, and sound sculptures that reveal the presence of the mystical in the mundane, she draws inspiration from trash, nature, spirituality, and psychedelic culture. Her work aims to exist in a tenuous space that warbles between morphing abstraction and the material of the everyday.
"I first found out about the eels in the river at a 4th of July party. People were throwing chicken pieces into the water, and the eels were swarming. Equally mesmerized and furious that no one had told me about this phenomenon sooner, I needed to know more.

Eel larvae migrate from the Atlantic's Sargasso Sea -- floating for about a year until they reach fresh water in the Woonasquatucket (an Algonquin word for "where the salt water ends"). As they approach the shore, they become more pigmented and yellow, mirroring their increasingly muddy surroundings. Sexual differentiation only happens once the eels are between 1 and 3 years old, and it's highly dependent on environmental factors like population density. With a high tolerance for pollution, they live in the river for between 5 and 20 years until they reach sexual maturity and their physiology changes in preparation for their return back to the sea to spawn. Their digestive tracts get smaller and their pectoral fins get bigger to improve their ability to swim long distances. The skin becomes thicker, the composition of their body fluids changes, and their retinas adapt to prepare for deeper water with less sunlight.

Determined to capture video of my neighbors, I purchased two orders of chicken nuggets at the local Burger King and a friend joined me at the river with an underwater video camera. We found a 2x4 piece of wood and fastened the camera to it. We also fastened pieces of chicken nuggets to the wood with some strong Gorilla Tape. The long piece of wood, once submerged in the Woonasquatucket, would allow us to get underwater footage without actually going into the river, and the pieces of chicken nuggets would lure the eels close enough to the camera to capture some (hopefully) good shots. This technique proved to be flawless in execution. The eels were most excited about the chicken nuggets that were fully submerged, and were less likely to get the pieces of chicken that were bobbing on the surface of the water."

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