USM Art Galleries Gorham and Portland

2000 — The City of If, Aviva Rahmani




The City of If
Aviva Rahmani
University of Southern Maine


Aviva Rahmani (2000)

In Aviva Rahmani’s series of panels titled A City of If a local story unfolds of how we are losing our relationship to nature and what that has cost us. However, by overlaying a pre-European settlement pattern on maps of present urban development, the City of If also presents a speculative world where we have regained it. Portland, like other modern coastal cities, has fragmented shorelines due to tidal crossings that eliminate salt marsh flushing. This threatens coastlines and water systems because roads and built structures in the path of normal tides make it impossible for water to move in ways that allow it to cleanse itself and adequately support the habitat that depends on that process.

In the City of If, the City of Portland has restored the original margins of the Back Cove area, large arterials for human traffic have been closed, and monorails have been built to take care of human transportation needs. The car corridors are closed to humans and enclosed for the reintroduction of large predator species such as wolves, coyotes or bears. Their reintroduction controls domestic cats, foxes, deer and other animals (meso-predators). The control of these animals in turn protects bird habitat and vegetative cover that preserves the watershed. Adequate quantities of clean water are available, filtration costs are minimal, there is money for infrastructure maintenance and the quality of life is enhanced by abundant greenery.

Rahmani is an artist who moved to Vinalhaven, Maine from New York City ten years ago to engage in a decade-long ecological art project called Ghost Nets. In this project, she bought and restored a former town dump with a salt marsh while making various art objects and artifacts in the process. You can find out more about her work by checking out her website at