Agenda 77, Agenda 78, Agenda 10

Diarys, bronze;
cm 25x30x16, cm 30x20x10, cm 28x18x15

June 16th 1904 is the day in which James Joyce set his Ulysses and on a number of occasions during that day the novel’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, chances upon the news of the naval disaster involving the General Slocum that had taken place the previous day when the ship had burned in the waters of New York’s East River. The vessel had been rented to ferry the congregation (largely German-Americans living in Little Germany in Manhattan, currently East Village and Alphabet City) of St. Mark’s Lutheran evangelical church for a picnic outing. Of the 1,342 people on board the General Slocum it is estimated that 1,021 lost their lives. Until the 9/11 terrorist attacks the General Slocum was the worst disaster in terms of loss of human life that has ever taken place in the New York area.

Already undergoing a slow decline prior to the disaster, Little Germany all but vanished as a neighbourhood after the General Slocum accident. Most of the Lutheran Germans living in Lower East Side moved into the city’s plusher neighbourhoods, while St. Mark’s – the parish that had rented the boat involved in the calamity – eventually became a synagogue. 

As he was reading Joyce’s Ulysses in the summer of 2013, Francesco Arena came across the General Slocum episode and made the connection with a story that had been told him by a Lower East Side resident in the winter of 2012-13, when he was living with his family in the East Village.

Three diaries – one from the year the artist’s wife was born in 1977, the other from Arena’s year of birth the following year and the third from 2010, the year their daughter was born – are open at the pages concerning June 15th and 16th.  The pages of the diaries are held down by white bronze sculptures completed by the artist using only one hand.