If you step on flotant marsh, you will feel like you are standing on a water bed. As you step around, waves of grass spread around you. It is tempting to jump up and down, but the flotant is rarely thick enough and you usually end up falling through.
– America’s Wetland Resource Center
Water of New Orleans, image courtesy of Waggonner & Ball Architects
Flotant is floating land. In marshes of Southest Louisiana, intertwined plants and roots produce a thick mass of organic material that floats on water, untethered but capable of supporting great weight – even small trees. This critical habitat nurtures biodiversity and can ride out rising floods.
In the midst of marsh, New Orleans rests on un-solid ground. It’s a soggy, low-lying place, barely land and mostly water. Nature is closer than we think. Between river and lake, we must tread lightly to balance culture, economy and the environment. Will we float, or fall through?
Flotant, the term for a specific type of wetland found in Southeast Louisiana, is a gallery installation that questions New Orleans’ relationship to the physical ground beneath it. In many cases this land was former marsh and is less stable than it appears. Flotant is a surface composed of seemingly identical pieces, but it’s important to watch your step: some may give way. The installation was on display at The Front Gallery in the St. Claude Avenue arts district in New Orleans from July 9th to August 6th, 2011. Flotant was created in collaboration with Andy Sternad.
Special thanks to Megan Roninger, Rami Diaz and Andra Aitken, Jamie Ball, Megan McCreary, and Zach Gong.