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SpilLover: Balancing Oil in Times Square

When oil started gushing in the Gulf, Brooklynite Josephine Decker felt overwhelmed. She wanted to do something to call attention to the spill and start conversations about conserving oil. So she got a group of dancers together, dressed them in white, and had them balance small buckets of oil-like liquid on their heads. In Times Square. In the middle of the day. For two hours. With no talking.

Passerby stopped to watch the five dancers, taking pictures when the buckets spilled on performers' faces.

People had differing ideas about what it all meant. One woman thought the liquid was tea. Another thought it was a call to eat healthy, "balanced" food.

Decker and a few friends answered people's questions about the piece and passed out small slips of paper with suggestions on how to conserve oil, like "invite friends to a no-lights party" and "point out the freezing temperature in an over-air-conditioned store."

SpilLover will take place at 7th Avenue and 44th Street from 12-2 p.m. through July 3. At 3:30 p.m. on July 3, performers and the public can meet on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, walk across the bridge while balancing buckets, and then walk back across, scrubbing up anything they've spilled.

A group of dancers balance buckets of dark liquid on their heads in Times Square. "We can't use real oil here because it's completely hazardous and disastrous," Josephine Decker, the creator of the performance piece, says. "It makes you realize what a huge mess it is in the Gulf."

The group uses a mixture of water and food coloring to represent oil.

Tourists watch as Ariana Disman, 21, fills up her oil can. Disman came from Toronto to participate in the performance. While she's balancing, she says she repeats the phrase "may you be well" to the audience in her head.

Jesse Phillips-Fein, 30, takes off her long-sleeved shirt while keeping her balance. "You have to listen deeply to your body, your spine," she says.

Eventually, the oil spills, as Reina Potaznik, 25, knows.

Since the mixture the group uses is mostly water, it doesn't show up on the performers clothes dramatically when it spills. "We're still trying to get the mixture right," Decker, who's worried about stinging the perfromers eyes, says. "We're thinking about incorporating molasses."

Alyse Orcutt, 8 (left) and her sister Kailina, 5, stop to watch the balancing act on their way to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. "A lot of oil spilled into the water," Alyse says. "It made it so the birds' feathers were covered in oil and they couldn't fly."

Decker, being interviewed, hopes her performance piece will get people talking.

"We are constantly in this process of balancing oil," Decker says. "We have this reliance on it and we can't escape from under it...whether we like it or not it's going to continue to spill."