Stories of Adventure

Ginger Island

Stories of Adventure : Rene Block and Yoshi Wada

George Maciunas loved to tell the story of his visit to the island in 1969. In the company of Milan Knizak, Yoshi Wada and two others, he was ferried from a neighboring island, and arranged with the boatman that they’d be picked up in a week’s time. They would use this week to explore and set up living conditions. They took sufficient supplies with them. They were delighted with the beauty and size of their kingdom. Though overgrown with cactus in the interior there were picturesque lagoons surrounded by shady trees. Weary after the first day of exploration, they lay down under the trees on the warm sand. It started to rain. The refreshing rain dripped through the rain and onto their faces and bodies. Thus they fell asleep.

But what an awakening the next morning, as they discovered that they were blind, and that parts of their bodies were inflamed and swollen. Poisonous sap, like the kind Indians used to poison there arrows, had seeped through the leaves and onto their faces and was washed into their eyes by the rain, and unleashed these awful effects. After two drama-packed days, remaining helpless and not knowing what had happened to them, they were able to attract a fishing boat to rescue them. Luckily the effects of the poison wore off in a few days, and the recovered. Meanwhile, the owner of the island had died. His heirs had other plans than to sell it to Maciunas.

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George planned to buy a large sailboat to take a world tour, and to make Ginger Island an artists’ cooperative. This island is located near St. Thomas, in the British Virgin Islands, a small island where nobody lives, but with a great climate. The team on this trip consisted of George Maciunas, Bob De Niro (the movie actor), Milan Knizak, Igor Demian & myself- for a wild ten-day camping trip. We prepared enough food for ten days- George insisted that we bring only powdered food and water.

Anyway, the five-crew members of the expedition landed at St. Thomas. A real estate broker took us by boat to Ginger Island. They promised to pick us up ten days later. They left us with no means of communication or a boat. We were totally deserted for that time in true Robinson Crusoe style. George knew about it, but the rest of us did not. It was too late to get upset and scream. I realized that this would be one of the most memorable trips I would ever take, be it Fluxus or not.

On the first day we decided to camp under some nice looking small bushes. The next morning, when we woke up, everybody’s eyes hurt. George was in the worst shape; he could not open his eyes at all. Everybody was sick. Later on we found out that these nice looking bushes were deadly poisonous.

We did not have that much to eat. The scariest thing was that there was no means to communicate with the outside world. Finally the realtor came back to pick us up. George signed an agreement to buy Ginger Island.

After we returned to New York, George arranged meetings to from Ginger Island Cooperative. But hardly anybody felt it was realistic and the project got lost. Robert de Niro was filming this trip and probably still has a film. I’m sure I will never experience this kind of wild adventure again.

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