The Public Art Fund is diving into a new medium—the sea. This summer, the arts non-profit is presenting the historic Fireboat John J. Harvey with "dazzle camouflage" by Tauba Auerbach, and you can ride it for free!
Auerbach's floating work, which was commissioned by the Public Art Fund and 14-18 Now is called "Flow Separation." The artist hand-painted the now-retired fireboat using what the arts non-profit calls a "contemporary rendition of 'dazzle camouflage,' a technique used by U.S. and U.K. artists during WWI to confuse enemy ships." (The Google Image search is pretty cool.) From the Public Art Fund:
With their geometric shapes, the dazzle designs were heavily indebted to both animal camouflage and avant-garde movements like Cubism, Futurism, and Vorticism. Thousands of vessels were dazzled in the U.K. and U.S., including in New York City at the Brooklyn Navy Yards.
Auerbach is known for her painterly experimentation, often playing with various techniques to explore perception and dimensionality. Her dazzle design draws inspiration from fluid dynamics and the forms found in wake patterns left behind objects as they move through water. Auerbach created her design for the surface of the boat through the process of marbling paper, floating inks on a fluid bath and combing the surface to create various wake patterns before transferring them on to paper. The fireboat also flies a flag diagramming “flow separation” — the phenomenon when areas of fluid in a wake move backwards, creating eddies. By incorporating the movement and behavior of water into the design, Auerbach references how the fireboat travels through water as well as how water moves through the belly of the vessel itself.
The boat rides begin in July, and "Flow Separation" will be on view 24/7 at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 starting Sunday. (You can board it on weekends only.) It will move to Hudson River Park's Pier 25 in mid-August and stay there through the end of the September. You can reserve free weekend boat rides here. The 45-60 minute cruise sounds like a blast; the Public Art Fund says, "This is a functional fireboat, and we plan to spray water during the trip."
Later this year, the boat will take part in the New York City Tugboat Race (September 2) and later head north up the Hudson River to visit a historical dazzle ship in Albany, NY. In the winter and spring 2019, the boat will be docked as a floating sculpture in Hudson River Park’s Pier 66a in Chelsea.