Last week I had the opportunity to check out the opening of Surface Tension: The Future of Water, a thrilling new exhibition at the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in Chelsea. I perused more than 40 installations, all geared toward reexamining water through the lens of art and science. I looked under microscopes, turned cranks, watched hydrogen and oxygen in motion, tested a water sample, used water to play an instrument, and generally explored water in entirely unexpected ways.
Here are just a few highlights:
The Curious Case of the Missing Buoy
When I arrived at the exhibit, artist David Bowen was putting the finishing touches on a sculpture he calls Tele-Present Water. Bowen’s hammock-like artwork suspends from the ceiling and undulates like a wave, feeding off actual wave data transmitted from a buoy lost at sea in the Pacific Ocean. The buoy went adrift years ago yet still beams info to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. When the exhibit debuted at the Science Gallery in Dublin, the sculpture moved uniformly. One night, however, a storm hit somewhere in the Pacific, and the staff found the sculpture a tangled mess the next morning.
Your Water Footprint
The Virtual Water Project explores how much water it takes to create everyday objects like eggs and t-shirts. A little egg sits on display alongside a representation of the amount of water required to bring it into existence: 50 gallons worth of bottled water.
A Tall, Cool Glass of Hudson River Water
Drink Local Water … Whatever It Is takes water hauled in from the Hudson River and puts it through a series of filters to make it potable. It will take braver souls than me to try it.
The Plastic Eater
The Sea Chair Project aims to help both fishing communities and the oceans by converting decommissioned fishing boats into manufacturing machines that assemble chairs from plastic pellets collected from the ocean. The artists are still raising money to build the boats but they have already created a clever plastic-pellet collector called the Nurdler.
High Tide, and Then Some
Last summer, Hurricane Irene gave New Yorkers a fast education on neighborhood flood zones. I was rather surprised to discover that friends living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, were just half a block away from an evacuation zone. Luckily, they lived on a hill, which provided a barrier between them and rising waters from the East River. That barrier could disappear if sea levels rise as predicted. To illustrate the dramatic impact of rising sea levels, artist Eve Mosher featured an exhibit based on her project, Highwaterline, that uses blue chalk to indicate areas throughout the city that will be underwater should sea levels rise 10 feet as predicted by current climate models.