"Dazzle is more about outsmarting than hiding." - Tauba Auerbach
A century ago, a new generation of artists in the U.S. and U.K. developed the experimental “dazzle” camouflage technique to disorient and outwit WWI enemy submarines. Drawing inspiration from animal camouflage, cubism, futurism, and vorticism, the artists used geometric patterns and colors to create avant-garde-like paint jobs, helping the Allies stay one step ahead of enemy technology.
This summer, multidisciplinary artist Tauba Auerbach is unveiling New York’s own 21st-century dazzle ship. Starting in July, Fireboat John J. Harvey will be painted with a visually-arresting design in vibrant red and contrasting white - the fireboat’s original colors, but with a dazzling twist.
Auerbach’s design incorporates the actual movement and behavior of water. The pattern was created through the intricate process of marbling paper, floating inks on a fluid bath and dragging combs through them before transferring ink to paper. Covering every vertical and horizontal surface of the vessel (she’s even designed special flags!), the work is the visualization of the physics of “fluid dynamics.”
Experiencing the artwork will be FREE to the public, and will be viewable from land 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Continuing in the John J. Harvey's 18-year tradition, the public will also be invited to board and tour the boat and its immersive design on weekends while it's docked, and free boat trips around New York Harbor will be offered on weekends from July 14 to September 23!
Flow Separation promises to surprise and fascinate New Yorkers and visitors from around the globe as it floats along the Hudson and East Rivers, docking at Brooklyn Bridge Park and Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 and Pier 66a.
With your partnership, we can make it even more accessible to the public, offering additional opportunities to experience NYC through the eyes of one of our city’s great contemporary artists!
A Benevolent Vessel
The exhibition also enables us to partner with a treasured NYC vessel: John J. Harvey. It launched as a fireboat in 1931 and served New York Harbor until it was retired in 1994 and saved by a group of enthusiasts. The boat became a national treasure on September 11, 2001 when the crew pumped water for 80 hours and evacuated people from Lower Manhattan (this story even inspired a book by Maira Kalman: Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey).
To realize Auerbach’s new commission, the exterior surface of John J. Harvey is being restored, stripping it of its decades-worth of chipped paint and rust, and recoated with layers of fresh paint. Following the exhibition, the fireboat will be repainted in its original, historic configuration, and continue offering free public trips as it has since 2000.
The work is co-commissioned by Public Art Fund and 14-18 NOW, the United Kingdom’s award-winning public arts program commemorating the centenary of World War I. Since 2014, 14-18 NOW has commissioned hundred of new works, including the presentation of four Dazzle Ships in the U.K.
Auerbach’s dazzled vessel is the first U.S.-based ship and the final vessel in the series before the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on November 11, 2018.
"Dazzle came about as a desperate response to catastrophe. I'll be happy if this project sparks joy in people — if we can salvage anything positive from the wreckage of that bloody, wasteful nightmare — but it should prompt us to think about what humanity was coping with and doing to itself at the time." - Tauba Auerbach
About the Artist
Tauba Auerbach is a painter, sculptor, photographer, and publisher whose work investigates systems of logic — mathematical, linguistic, aesthetic, and spatial. A former sign painter, Auerbach frequently explores and adapts painting traditions and techniques, as well as elements of typography and calligraphy, to form abstract compositions. Auerbach has a keen understanding of how form can alter perception, a key factor in the original ‘dazzle’ patterns.
For Flow Separation, Auerbach expands on her extensive research of ornamental wave patterns and her newer experimentation with fluid dynamics. Auerbach is intrigued by ornamental shapes and has observed and catalogued these designs, found not only in pre-historic paintings, architecture, and textiles, but in snapshots of dynamic motion in the form of rivers, and on the skeletons of coral. Her dazzle design will continue this investigation and will draw inspiration from the rhythmic designs found in the wake patterns.
"Since every boat has a wake, there's an interesting geometry to the way the fluid moves behind it, and through it, and alongside of it. I wanted to dig into that."
About Public Art Fund
As the leader in its field, Public Art Fund brings dynamic contemporary art to a broad audience in New York City and beyond by mounting ambitious free exhibitions of international scope and impact that offer the public powerful experiences with art and the urban environment. Since 1977, Public Art Fund has distinguished itself as a pioneering organization that sets the standard for public art programs across the country, realizing over 450 projects that are as unique and memorable as New York City itself.
About 14-18 NOW
14-18 NOW is a program of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War, as part of the U.K.’s official centenary commemorations. Since 2014 it has commissioned over 200 contemporary artists across all art forms from 35 countries, including William Kentridge, Jeremy Deller, Rachel Whiteread, Akram Khan, Jason Moran, and film directors Danny Boyle and Peter Jackson.
The contemporary Dazzle Ship series, co-commissioned with Liverpool Biennial and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, has seen Dazzle Ships in London (Tobias Rehberger), Liverpool (Carlos Cruz-Diez and Sir Peter Blake) and Edinburgh (Ciara Phillips) engaging over 13 million people to date.
Kickstarter is a unique way for us to reach a broad audience of supporters locally, nationally, and internationally — which helps us build excitement for the project while simultaneously helping ensure its successful realization by providing crucial funds. We love how Kickstarter helps us build a community of friends and supporters who are invested in watching the exhibition develop and are passionate about innovative and ambitious public art!
Risks and challenges
Every Public Art Fund project presents a new set of challenges to navigate — such is the reality of commissioning ambitious and boundary-pushing works of art in unconventional places! However, our team has been hard at work for many months ironing out the kinks.
In fact, we now fancy ourselves experts in maritime law, harbor topography, marine-grade paint and supplies, nautical terminology, and so much more. Painting is currently underway and we look forward to seeing the dazzled fireboat set out for its maiden voyage on the water this summer.
As a not-for-profit organization, it’s only through the support of our community that we can make artists’ dreams a reality, so that they may surprise and fascinate New Yorkers and visitors from across the globe with the fruits of their labor. Thank you for being a part of this incredible project!
Your pledge is tax-deductible. Where goods and services are provided by Public Art Fund in exchange for your contribution, the tax deductible amount excludes the fair market value of the goods and services provided.
Images courtesy of Tauba Auerbach.
Video by SandenWolff.
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