Choreographed Ephemera: Bridge Tender
A study of the confluences of monotony, choreography, and spectacle in labor, Bridge Tender is an opening and closing sequence of Maine’s last manually operated swing bridge. Over the course of the 20th century, Maine’s Department of Transportation sought to rapidly switch from steamers and schooners to rail and other vehicles. As a concession to permit both water and land-bound transport, draw and swing bridges were erected throughout the state’s tidal waterways. By 2013 only a handful of draw bridges remained, most of them powered by a combination of hydraulics and powerful electric solenoids, helmed by men and women in shacks filled with foot pedals and switches. Since 1937, however, the Trevett Swing Bridge—which opens horizontally, as opposed to a draw bridge, which opens vertically—between Barter’s Island and the mainland has been a vein for both water and road transportation. It has also been a key infrastructural monument within the memories of tourists, and of generations of islanders who have reveled in the performance of the bridge opening day in and day out. For 87 years, the opening has been spectacular but always fleeting: the bridge opens on average once a day, only during high tide, and is closed within 10 minutes.
Bridge Tender is caught somewhere between daily labor practice and historical reenactment, as tourists experience Maine’s longstanding folksiness and locals relive decades-long memories of bridge openings performed by a handful of other bridge tenders. The film situates viewers within the ephemeral act of opening and closing, during which it becomes possible to scrutinize bodily practices that are simultaneously enacted and reenacted.
Hunter Snyder’s work seeks to agitate the representational relationships between land and labor. His current work explores how Inuit balance hunting and fishing practices amid the prospects of large-scale mining. He is a recent Oxford graduate, a co-founder of CAMRA, a National Geographic Young Explorer, and Greenland’s first Fulbright fellow.