Danish artist Jeppe Hein unveiled his 1.3-mile-long installation in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sunday, and man, did people take his invitation to "Please Touch the Art" to heart. Curated by the Public Art Fund, the 18 pieces in Hein's work are scattered over almost the entire length of
the park, from the lawn in Empire-Fulton in shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Swing Valley at Pier 6.
There are essentially three components to Please Touch the Art, all of them instant hits with the increasingly large crowds in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Likely to be the most heavily-"touched" piece is Appearing Rooms, set on a platform right at the entrance to Pier 1 and, basically, acting as a water attraction, with impressively powerful jets building and collapsing walls to make four separate chambers over and over again. Time it right and you can enter the work without getting (too) wet. Time it wrong, as most of the dozens of kids were deliberately doing, and you're sopping.
The second larger component of Please Touch the Art is the Instagramable "Mirror Labyrinth NY", located on the high ground of Pier 3 midway through the park. For this piece Hein has planted into the grass equally-spaced planks of highly-polished stainless steel in three concentric circles. As you walk through and around the piece, the differing heights of the planks throw off your perspective (which thing is the reflection? Which is real?) and the whole thing echoes the Manhattan skyline across the river—very cool.
Finally, Hein created 16 bright reddish-orange Modified Social Benches, and these pop up in spots all through the park. Some of Hein's benches remain perfectly useful as seating, though always with a twist (or a wave... or a sag...). Some seem more like playground equipment or, at least, that's the way they were being treated by swarming children. And a couple have been deconstructed to the point where they're just broken as benches, and function more as sculptures, albeit ones on which you are encouraged to climb.
There's an obvious scavenger hunt appeal to the benches, and over the weekend Public Art Fund folks were handing out maps at Pier 1, though you certainly don't really need one to find and enjoy any of the pieces in the work. Now if only they'd reopen Squibb Bridge.
Jeppe Hein: Please Touch the Art will be in Brooklyn Bridge Park through April 17, 2016, though the water for Appearing Rooms gets turned off in late September.