May 24, 2008
Borough of Dreams
“This Way, ” an art installation under the Brooklyn Bridge.
This Memorial Day weekend I’m at home in Brooklyn, sitting at my desk working, feeling vaguely sorry for myself. I go out for a walk at sunset to check out the Brooklyn Bridge illuminated for its 125th birthday. I stroll the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and am delighted to see the newly constructed armatures for artist Olafur Eliasson’s waterfalls. There’s one over on Governor’s Island, one under the eastern armpit of the Brooklyn Bridge and one right smack in the middle of the Brooklyn Heights waterfront (see below).
And then I wander down a steep hill marveling at the skill of the skate boarders who blithely slalom by. And I encounter that odd, Dr. Who style artwork that recently materialized at Fulton Landing. The concept is that it’s a tunnel connecting New York and London, allowing residents to stare mutely at each other through the hole. Tonight, at the New York end there is a scrum of tourists pressing up against the glass, staring at one lonely Londoner (it’s 2 am there) and his sleepy, baffled looking children.
Then I drift through the waterfront park in DUMBO where a silent film — slow moving tugboats in black and white — with piano accompaniment is being shown with the Brooklyn Bridge as a stunning backdrop. As I walk up Washington Street, out of DUMBO and back toward Downtown Brooklyn, I’m already thinking that the things I’ve encountered on my walk are extraordinary and more than a little bit dreamlike. Then I reach the spot underneath the Bridge where one generally accesses pedestrian walkway — at night it’s always an especially dark spot — and am amazed to see a light installation, an asymmetrical spray of skinny glowing white tubes.
A little diligent Googling reveals that the artwork is by Linnaea Tillett, Williamsburg-based crafter of “highly nuanced lighting programs,” and architect Karin Tehve, and is part of the fanfare surrounding the Bridge’s 125th. Workmen have also installed directional signage to help visitors navigate to and from the walkway, an improvement that’s way overdue. But the luminous artwork feels like a gift specifically for the locals, something to brighten up a pivotal but long neglected location, part, I guess, of the new, dreamier version of Brooklyn.
One of Olafur Eliasson’s future waterfalls.