For Prospect.5 New Orleans, we are developing a project to better understand the role of oysters in the Gulf in relation to coastal inhabitation, subsidence, sedimentation, offshore drilling, and human-induced climatic changes. As part of the research process, we have approached a series of thinkers and experts to have an “oyster reading”. Oysters have populated the waters of Louisiana for millennia, nourishing people living on its coasts. Like a modern palimpsest, oysters record time and events. Similar to tree rings, every season an oyster grows a shell around their lip. As the shell grows it encases the environmental conditions in which they live. Oysters tell stories about hurricanes and droughts, the invention of dredgers, the expansion of Bulbancha/New Orleans and the proliferation of its oyster bars; they also remember oil spills and gas leaks, and more recently, the effects of global pandemics. Through a series of short filmed oyster readings resulting from interviews with scientists, oyster shuckers, residents, and fisherfolk we will be sharing the making of the new work for P.5, building up to the physical public readings that will happen in October and will allow visitors to read into our common oyster futures.
Oyster Reading #1 -Tasia Denapolis, biologist, Pontchartrain Conservancy
Oyster Reading #2 - Jefferey U. Darensbourg, Tribal Councilperson of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation and coeditor of Bulbancha Is Still a Place: Indigenous Culture from "New Orleans." In this reading, Jefferey takes us through the loss of oyster shell middens as an indicator of cultural erasure and the displacement of people.
Oyster Reading #3 - Alex Kolker, geologist, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. In this reading, Alex looks at how the lives of oysters along the coast of Louisiana are influenced and governed by resource extraction and various manmade coastal transformations.
Oyster Reading #4 - Lindsay Allday, oyster shucker, Bulbancha/New Orleans. In this reading, Lindsay traces how water salinity, river diversions, and storms shape and flavour oysters along the Gulf coast.
Oyster Reading #5 - Uptown T, oyster shucker, Bulbancha/New Orleans. In the final Oyster Reading, Uptown T charts the environmental and social transformations of the Gulf Coast and its communities following a triumphed career as an oyster shucker.