Sludgie the whale returns to Gowanus — kinda

The Brooklyn Paper
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It is a whale of an exhibition. Literally.

“Sludgie,” the ill-fated baby whale that famously meandered into the Gowanus Canal in April 2007 and died after hitting some submerged rocks, is returning to Brooklyn. Or at least part of it is — two artists have designed an educational exhibit featuring Sludgie’s massive skull, which will be displayed at the upcoming TEDxGowanus conference at event space 501 Union on Jan. 26.

“This is a gesture toward the whale in the sense that the whale dying in the canal was a tragedy,” said co-designer Sasha Chavchavadze.

Chavchavadze, who is also the co-founder of the art and reading gallery Gowanus Proteus, worked with fellow artist Christina Kelly to create a massive broadside featuring newspapers that tell tales of animals and people falling into, or becoming otherwise ensnared by, the centuries-old canal. The installation will also boast cards attached to helium balloons that list flora and fauna that have disappeared or returned to the canal over the years — and of course, the massive cetacean cranium itself.

“There have been many tragedies — some more humorous, some sadder,” Chavchavadze said, also noting the death of the dolphin that swam into the canal in January last year and died after only one day in the fetid waterway. “This will show how the canal has been the site of multiple issues, almost from the time it was constructed.”

The artist said she was approached by the organizers of TEDxGowanus — a spin-off from the popular TED conference series, which puts on global conferences with talks on topics such as “The $80 prosthetic knee that’s changing lives” and “The astounding athletic power of quadcopters” — to construct an interactive installation featuring the famed aquatic mammal for the one-day event. The conference will also highlight some 20 speakers, including writer Joseph Alexiou, who is penning a book about the canal, and Rachel Fershleiser, the literary and nonprofit outreach guru for blogging platform Tumblr.

The conference creators said they are looking forward to bringing Sludgie back from the dead.

“I think the exhibit will do a bunch of great things — it will tell the story of what happened to Sludgie after she died, educate people on whale anatomy, and also revitalize awareness of the intersection between our urban environment and natural environment,” said TEDxGowanus organizer Sean Gannet.

After the conference is done, Sludgie’s skull will float around Gowanus for awhile longer, on display at Proteus Gowanus’s mini-museum, Hall of the Gowanus, until March.

See Sludgie’s skull at 501 Union [501 Union St. between Nevins and Bond streets in Gowanus, (347) 529–6486,]. Jan. 26 from 11 am.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 10:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Art from NYC says:
wow, I am so glad that Diehipster posts here to defend my honor! Indeed, there is no greater artistic achievement than his still-life masterpiece "Discarded candy wrapper with loogie" that he recreates for us mere mortals on the sidewalk every day.
Jan. 13, 2014, 9:18 am
diehipster from Strangling Soyboys says:
Hey ART,

I noticed you still could not explain how this is art - and so many other things hipsters call art. Go ahead. Give it a shot you smug out of place yup.
Jan. 13, 2014, 9:43 am
ty from pps says:
Umm... What? Still adjusting to your meds?
Jan. 13, 2014, 11:18 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
The article said the whale died after hitting submerged rocks. It cited the dolphin's death, too, but didn't mention if pollutants had anything to do with it. The canal has been designated a superfund site, but is the water really so toxic that an animal would die if exposed to it for a day? Does anyone have links?
Jan. 13, 2014, 11:21 am
ty from pps says:
OK, brooklyn paper censors. Can I call diehipster a d-bag? Since the French word for shower is too offensive?

Or is it the fact that I am pointing out the difference between art and an exhibit created by artists? I don't want to damage your position as the #1 New Source for ignoramuses.
Jan. 13, 2014, 3:35 pm
Angela from Park Slope says:
Ty from pps: I've read many articles where you fill the comment sections with tantrums against other readers and the paper itself. Why are you so uptight and concerned? Maybe you should not read this website. There are billions of others at your disposal.
Jan. 13, 2014, 4:26 pm
TJ from Greenpoint says:
Heavenly Father, please relieve Ty from her obsession with Die Hipster. May she gain useful employment that unburdens her of her boundless free time and the self righteous need to incessantly comment after DH with such repetitive tedium. Through thy grace bestow a willingness for her to accept that different people have different perceptions, beliefs, and ideas that might run counter to hers. May a sense of tolerance overcome her need to control the people , places, and things in her life. Lastly, I pray that she herself will make a better choice in primary care physicians, so that she can get on the correct dose of medication for whatever made up mental disorder that she has self-diagnosed. In Jesus name, Amen.
Jan. 13, 2014, 4:35 pm
ART from NYC says:
DH, Art does not have to explain itself to you or anyone else. As for being out of place, it is you who is pissing into the winds of change here in Brooklyn.
Jan. 14, 2014, 8:38 am
Jim from Carroll Gardens says:
To ART from NYC - Nicely put.
Jan. 14, 2014, 10:37 am
Lois from (Not the canal) says:
Question on the toxic water causing animals to die. I can understand that if you consider how long it takes for exposure of toxins in the canal to cause cancer may eliminate that as a cause of death; but if an animal has any health issues and they are in the canal for a day or two, wouldn't their liver and Kidneys be overtaxed dealing with the toxins they are taking in over a day or two in the canal, and might that not contribute to their death?

Whales and dolphins are mammals and would be effected in ways fish might not be. Even if a healthy person were to spend a few days in that water they could expect to become sick, why not other mammals?
Jan. 14, 2014, 6:07 pm

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