Archives for category: Lily Mooney

Lily sent several people off into Dumbo with a map in their hand and an mp3 of two argumentative tour guides on their listening devices…

(Sculpture by Mark Gagnon.)



 Mayday by Einat Imber


Martha Clippinger colors the Brooklyn Bridge’s archways.



If you’re following the development of Anne Percoco’s curatorial project Perimeters for the Dumbo Arts Festival this weekend, you may already know: Wandering Directions by Lily Mooney is a self-guided audio tour through the historic fabulous neighborhood of DUMBO in Brooklyn.  The tour speaks to ideas of memory, association, and physical connections in time and space, resulting in a uniquely rich and layered story – as the tour narrator tells one story, the tourist creates another. Here, Lily sits down to share some of her own story.

How did you get involved with Anne Percoco  and “Perimeters”?

Anne is my cousin, so we’ve known each other for most
of our lives. As we got older and moved into our respective disciplines, we’ve collaborated a little, and we share and discuss our work a lot. I had been talking to her about some site-specific work I’d been doing during grad school—I’ve become really interested in multi-media and experimental theatre, which often sits on the line between visual and performance art. Anyway, she knew that’s what I was doing and thinking about, and she invited me to submit for the DAF, and I came up with Wandering Directions.

What inspired “Wandering Directions” initially?  Had you done public site-specific works prior?

I had done a couple site-specific pieces and one shorter audio tour, which led participants on a walk around the main floor of a library. For that piece, we planted actors in these kind of mini-tableaus around the library, and their actions/appearances either confirmed or contradicted things you were hearing along the tour. That piece was a lot of fun and an exciting challenge, so I had already been thinking about the tour form. When I started looking at DUMBO, it seemed like a great setting to do the tour on a larger scale. A scripted tour also plays to my strengths, because at the moment I’m a little better at sculpting language and experience than materials or bodies.

What did the research for Wandering Directions involve, and what informed the construction of the tour narrative?

I did a little of everything. To gather information I researched the neighborhood’s history and talked to people about the place. I read “Wanderlust: A History of Walking,” by Rebecca Solnit, which was a good way to think about what was unique about making a performance where people walked instead of sat. I also cobbled together a small fictional story that I expanded from some real experiences I had walking around. My training as a playwright came in handy during the later writing stages, where, using what I knew about story structure, I organized all the disparate stuff I’d collected and tried to design an experience that weaved around a lot and indulged some tangents (much like a circular walk around the neighborhood) but had an arc, felt cohesive, and changed over time.

Did you wander DUMBO first or already have a story in mind?

I wandered first. And I didn’t have a story. At the start, I felt pretty aware of the fact that I’m not actually from here, and that I’m sort of an outsider, which was an idea and line of thought that is now in the tour. I was actually pretty concerned with constructing an “accurate” or “believable” fictional narrative, which in retrospect I think was sort of silly. It’s really important to me not to be presumptuous or “get it wrong,” but on the other hand, as much as we all feel connected to these places that we live or work, they also kind of belong to nobody, or everybody, and the same space can mean wildly different things to different people. And it’s ironic that sometimes tourists end up with a whole lot of information, or an entirely different set of information, than residents and natives. So once I got comfortable with that, I trusted myself to wander more, through the space and through all the historical research, and I based pretty much everything on what I read and encountered.

Do you have a particular favorite memory or association that formed while working on this project?

I’m not sure I have a single favorite memory, but I think coming here over and over really caused DUMBO to grow on me in this unique way that it wouldn’t have otherwise. And I liked noticing at other people’s relationships to this place. I love how many different people I see here taking engagement and wedding photos, and going to the park and seeing people just basking in the views of the city and the bridges. There were also a million weird little moments and things I noticed but can’t explain and couldn’t include. One example would be these pink handprints that I saw high up on the side of one of the buildings on John Street, between Jay and Pearl, I think. I saw those about five times one week, had no idea what they were, and then on the sixth time I noticed a dirty glove on the sidewalk below the handprints, soaked in pink paint. I still don’t know WTF that was about, but I felt like Sherlock Holmes.

You are often referred to in press as a “writer and performer.” What came first for you, or attracted you to these modes of expression?

I started writing and performing around the same time, actually – when I was younger I did a ton of improv comedy, in which you write and perform simultaneously. For me, writing and storytelling are a really fulfilling way to communicate and connect with people – I love language, and I love drama and suspense and emotion and all that human stuff – and I guess for me, performing allows me to be in the room for all that communication and connection. It also physicalizes it, which is important to me. Sometimes I feel like it’s getting easier and easier to spend all this time in your head, and performance, theater, live comedy, site-specific work all get me out of mine.

As a human / creative person, what motivates you to execute your ideas? 

In general, I create things for two reasons. First, I make stuff because there are true things I feel or observe that I’m not sure are said loudly or often enough. So I try to make things in order to increase the frequency or volume of the truth-telling. And second, I make things to make people laugh, because laughter is both fun and necessary.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

I just finished a full-length play, and this fall I’ll be producing a short film based on a feature I wrote, so there are some more traditional writerly things going on. I’m also interested in expanding and refining this tour idea, so I may be trying it out in other neighborhoods or cities over the next few months.


Visit to download the map/guide and download or stream the mp3 (this will be uploaded in the next few hours).

See you at Main & Water!

Lily’s map in progress …

Something I’m hoping to do with my tour is to “frame” DUMBO from one conceptual angle and then another, through different bits of history and observation, in order to accumulate a rich (and sometimes conflicting) variety of associations with this one place.

Physically, DUMBO frames and re-frames itself constantly, and incorporates views of things that would seem contradictory. Without having to walk far at all, either bridge can look small and distant or towering and monumental. Part of DUMBO’s allure  (I think) is its sweeping view of Manhattan at a distance; but funnily enough, it also has enough space and sky to offer a lot of great views and angles on itself. Because of the waterfront location, gradually rising slope, mix of old and new architecture, and, of course, the presence of the bridges, virtually every time you turn your head you’re met with a striking (and often interestingly framed) picture.

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traditional vs. site-specific theatre, explained.

An illustration of the difference between traditional and site-specific plays, drawn for my mother at lunch today.

As I string together the different places and stories that make up this walking tour, I’m remembering a couple things I read recently in Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust:

When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.

We know how this works, the way that people connect to places: significant things happen in a certain spot, and that spot seems to contain a trace of that event. Inhabiting the space where something happened seems to have a special weight, be it personal or cultural: it’s why history classes take trips to empty fields (that maybe once were battlegrounds), or why returning to your childhood home can be such an emotional experience.

Doing the research for this tour has been an exercise in harvesting these “crops of memories” – and this kind of work makes me appreciate the funny, uneven layers of memory and history that are physically manifested in a neighborhood.

The way that cobblestone and railroad tracks sneak out from underneath pavement:

Seeing old commercial buildings, like the Eagle Warehouse, that have been converted into residences or artists’ work spaces,

Or noticing that some places are named after other now-gone places:

And though this tour isn’t exclusively historical, stringing together points of interest puts all these different moments and memories in conversation with each other, reminding me of Solnit’s other thought:

Part of what makes roads, trails and paths so unique as built structures is that they cannot be perceived as a whole all at once by a sedentary onlooker. They unfold in time as one travels along them, just as a story does as one listens or reads… a hairpin turn is like a plot twist, a steep ascent a building of suspense to the view at the summit, a fork in the road an introduction to a new storyline, arrival at the end of the story.

So with individual places containing stories, and the act of walking similar to telling or hearing a narrative, a walk that passes by landmarks, current businesses and residents, and the ongoing construction is a kind of meta-story, not just an experience that changes, but a narrative about change.

I really like seeing the words “historic” and “fabulous” right next to each other, in that order, on the bottom of this No. 1 Front Street plaque:

For this project, I will create and distribute a fifteen- to thirty-minute self-guided audio tour of DUMBO, narrated by a fictional resident and expert on all things DUMBO.

Passers-by will first encounter the piece on the street. A sign advertising the tour will draw people to a table laid out with mp3 players as well as instructions for downloading the audio tour onto a smartphone or other listening device. If one chooses to take the tour, they’ll receive a map of the route and audio to guide them. The tour will begin with a narrator welcoming them to DUMBO and guiding them towards the park and the water.

The tour’s narrator will present himself as a lifelong city resident and will act as a kind of familiar stranger – a friend of their friend’s friend – who has produced the tour as a kind of insider’s guide to DUMBO. What follows will be a fusion of instruction and narrative, and as the listener is directed through the neighborhood they will also come to understand (by way of digression, anecdote and reflection) the narrator’s life story. This narrator will
relate DUMBO’s history through his personal history, discussing where he was born, where he played, learned, worked, first fell in love and then where his heart was broken, places where his life changed, places he goes for comfort, for reflection, for release, for discovery. The tour will draw parallels between changes in public space and the narrator’s evolution through life and over time, as stories move from childhood to adulthood and old age. Similarly, his tone will be sometimes playful and nostalgic, and sometimes caustic and sarcastic, observing tensions between past and present in the architecture and physical world of the city.

The tour will use large-scale landscapes (views of the river, the bridges, and the city) as well as smaller objects (electrical boxes, inscriptions, graffiti, and architectural details) as jumping-off points for fictional and non-fictional storytelling: historical talk of warehouses and buildings under construction, as well as the narrator’s personal anecdotes set in the streets and businesses through which the tour moves. Sometimes the sensory emphasis will shift: the tour will guide the listener past a bakery and the smell will inspire an anecdote (or, perhaps, an instruction to go in and buy bread). Sound will be an especially important component, and the tour will make use of the live soundscapes in DUMBO (the noisiness under the bridge, the quietness of the park), heightening the listener’s sensitivity to the neighborhood sights and sounds even as her sensory perception is muffled by headphones. The piece will play upon the simultaneous feelings of isolation and immersion experienced in urban public space.

Press-Release PDF

BROOKLYN, NY September 2011 – A.I.R. Gallery, the DUMBO Arts Festival, the Puffin Foundation, and 2010-2011 A.I.R. Fellowship Artist Anne Percoco invite the public to Perimeters, an upcoming event presenting site-specific works by three women artists. The works will be on view during the annual DUMBO Arts Festival: Friday, September 23 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM, Saturday, September 24, from 12:00 to 8:00 PM, and Sunday, September 25, from 12:00 to 6:00 PM. The event is open to the public, free of charge. For project updates, visit Stop by A.I.R. Gallery to pick up a map of the works.

Martha Clippinger’s project will fill the negative spaces of the Brooklyn Bridge’s iconic arches with color. Pairs of cardboard shapes will hang from street signs, scaffolding, and other locations throughout DUMBO. Viewers will be asked to align their bodies with the hued shapes and the bridge in order to “color-in” the voids of the Brooklyn Bridge’s arches. The material reminds us of DUMBO’s earlier nickname, Gairville, after Robert Gair, the man credited with the invention of corrugated cardboard.

Einat Imber’s Mayday is a site-specific flag-cart, rolling on the abandoned train tracks in DUMBO. When at rest, the flag pole will be weighed down, laying on the ground, and the structure will resemble a canon. People passing by will have a chance to roll the sculpture on the tracks, temporarily raising the flag.

Lily Mooney’s Wandering Directions is a self-guided audio tour that leads listeners through an intimate and tactile experience of DUMBO. Narrated by a self-proclaimed “expert” on the area, the tour weaves together storytelling, instruction, and observation, drawing tour-takers’ attention to large city-scapes and smaller, often overlooked details. Wander Directions plays upon different experiences of isolation and immersion, direction and displacement often felt when moving through the city, heightening listeners’ awareness of their surroundings as the guide illuminates local culture and history.

Anne Percoco has exhibited and presented public projects both nationally and internationally, and will have a solo show in Brooklyn’s NURTUREart Gallery in 2012. She lives and works in Jersey City. Martha Clippinger’s concept opf painting as “color in space” leads her to create colorful abstraction that often respond to surrounding architecture. She is the founder and director of The Dirty Dirty, an alternative art space in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, and in 2010 received a studio space in DUMBO through The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation’s The Space Program. She is represented by Elizabeth Harris Gallery. Einat Imber, born in Israel, received her BFA from the Cooper Union and now lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She is a 2011 -12 A.I.R. Gallery Fellow, and her solo show Continental Drift will be on view at the gallery in 2012. Lily Mooney is a writer and performer whose work has been produced in Boston, Seattle, Chicago and New York. Working both traditionally and experimentally, with found and original material, she uses language and storytelling media to re-imagine familiar notions of identity and community.

A.I.R. Gallery is located at 111 Front Street, #228 in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. Gallery Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. For directions, please visit For more information, please contact Gallery Director, Julie Lohnes at 212-255-6651 or

The A.I.R. Fellowship Program is made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, a state-agency, JP Morgan Chase through a re-grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council, as well as generous support from Louise McCragg, The Bernheim Foundation, The Gifford Foundation, Elizabeth A. Sackler, Golden Artists Colors, The Milton and Sally Avery Foundation, and The Estate of Theo Westenberger.