Ep 08. PH
Margaret & Joe
In Margaret’s first week working at MoMA PS1, she was tasked with installing an elaborate exhibition, including an ecosystem of aquatic plants and fish. When her koi fish started falling ill, Joe came to the rescue. Romance blossoms under controlled pH conditions.
Episode 8 was produced by Bart Warshaw & Zoe Saunders
Support from Kismets Danny Lewis
I was a starry-eyed, recently hired employee at MoMA PS1.
These two wonderful people, Lucas and Gustavo, were commissioned to build this living environment that is in the courtyard of PS1.
It was a full building exposition, all about climate change, and I was doing um, what we call the micro-exhibition.
And so I was really just brought in to help source trailers.
It was the absolute first thing I worked on. I think I’d been there for four days.
But then I, I kind of, I joined the team.
We used what we call a duplex gallery, which is a double-high space, and we put pool lining in the bottom part of the room, and that was the support for the water.
Within the course of one meeting, I also decided I should probably also design a rainwater collecting system.
And we loaded in enormous boulders.
And definitely an aquaponic farm, of course, and…
And then we filled water into the space.
We had four trailers, and…
And then added aquatic plants.
Each one could sleep at least two people, if not more.
We had a little garden section, and then the fish were added to the system, and then we…
… and lived inside the museum, essentially.
We wired some piping up the wall and across the ceiling and actually built a waterfall.
It was the first time I’d ever had any full-on production experience. You know, “build this thing from scratch.” And I was so fresh, I was so green, I had no idea. I was kind of blindly researching projects. I’d get there in the morning and be like, “okay, open Google, start simple. What is a koi fish.”
I really loved koi, and I love fish, and I do… they’re beautiful. And I love water systems, and building out different ponds.
All of a sudden I was building this ecosystem that had some substantial responsibility to it. We had plants there, and fish living there, and we had to feed them everyday and make sure the water was cycled out, and our pH levels were balanced.
Early on in the process, somebody said, “oh, you should speak tot his guy who’s doing a project on site.
Her colleague, who I was working very closely with, told me I must meet Margaret.
And he has a connection to find the best koi fish in New York City.
She’s working on this project with this artist. Maybe we can, you know, maybe we can collaborate somehow.
I didn’t know what a koi fish was or where you buy one, or how much they cost or anything at all.
I think the first we met was at a meeting that she was pulled into.
You know, I sat down in a meeting with this guy, and everyone always called him by his full name: Joe Diamond.
So when I met him I said, “hi Joe Diamond.” You know, “it’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve been hearing your name a lot. Where do I get my fish?”
We mostly talked about the plants that we could potentially share.
I think I must have sounded deeply over-eager.
She was incredibly energetic, and…
… insanely positive.
I offered my assistance and…
He ended up talking me through some of the finer details of fish maintenance or water maintenance.
Um, helping them with their koi pond.
Everything I could never have guessed would go into pond maintenance, and everything that was the most important about pond maintenance.
You actually do need to test water.
Making sure your fish are well fed, or comfortable, or have enough space, or…
For various things: ammonia and nitrates and nitrites and…
How many males to females there are in the water, and what kind of reproductive cycles they have.
Definitely pH and…
And especially what the pH level was.
At some point I asked them if they were testing their pH balance of the water. And uh, I’m pretty sure the answer was no, and I might have exaggerated the importance and the frequency to which pH needs to be tested.
My pH level was off early on in the process.
For a time pH was like the, was like the code word…
My fish were starting to get lesions, and the artist and I were deeply, deeply upset about it. Because of course, these were creatures that we’d come to care very deeply about, and had invested a lot of time into their well being, and um… Joe showed me there’s a pH testing kit.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t just come out and say that any pet store in the city would definitely have water testing kits.
He happened to have one. And so, he would often come to my gallery and spend much time there testing my water.
It was really just an easy excuse to go and hang out with Margaret
I think it was probably unnecessary and I think it was both good for the fish and a great way to flirt with me.
So “ah, I better go test the pH.”
So, you know, it worked out. And he gave me his cell phone number. And so every once in a while I would take the liberty of texting him.
I was conspicuously leaving the project that I was supposed to be working on.
To ask him to drop by and visit.
But it was good! I could send her, you know, a text message and we could meet by the koi pond and…
And, and so we would often, would just spend several hours a day together. Talking about the water…
You know, move some plants around, or, to check out a fish.
The fish were happy. I was really happy.
Uh, and then, there was this opening.
The day the show opened, I remember…
That uh, I was not even sure if I was gonna go to. Uh, and she had been up all night at the museum, and…
We were passing each other on a set of stairs.
On the terrace.
And we were talking about the opening party that was the next night…
And she asked if I was gonna go.
“I have nothing to wear.”
She immediately said.
She has six dresses
Got seven or eight dresses upstairs…
If I needed to borrow one.
And that was like the first moment of flirtation.
And I took that as a cue that maybe she would like it if I came.
The thing that really struck me about this relationship with Joe is that it was…
It seemed only natural…
… incredibly fast. Everything fell into place really fast, and…
Very early on in our relationship, I think we knew that, we knew we wanted to be together.
It took us two weeks to say “I love you.”
I dunno, I think that love came very naturally for us.
Eventually they did get their own pH kit.
You know, we got really lucky. We really did.