Flow Separation is a commission by New York-based artist Tauba Auerbach (b. 1981, San Francisco, California), which transforms the historic Fireboat John J. Harvey into a contemporary "dazzle ship." Invented by British painter Norman Wilkinson during World War I, the original dazzle patterns were painted onto ships to optically distort their forms, confusing enemy submarines tracking their distance, direction, and speed. 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.
2018 marks one hundred years since the end of World War I. Flow Separation artfully threads together notions of innovation, technology, and abstraction, while it also invites us to remember this devastating world war.
The exhibition is curated by Public Art Fund Adjunct Curator, Emma Enderby. READ MORE
Visiting the Exhibition
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6: July 1 – August 12
Hudson River Park’s Pier 25: August 13 – September 23
Hudson River Park’s Pier 66a: September 24, 2018 – May 12, 2019
Boat Trips & Tours:
Boat trips will take place July 14 – September 23, 2018 on Saturdays and Sundays and last 45-60 minutes; they will start and end at the same location. The capacity of each trip is 75 people, and tickets will be released free of charge to all members of the public at PublicArtFund.org and Fireboat.org starting in mid-June. Reservations are first come, first served.
Starting July 14, the public will also be able to board the boat on weekends to experience the full dazzled design and explore this historic vessel. Flow Separation will be viewable from land seven days a week.
On board visiting hours 12:00-4:00pm
Boat trips: 4:30-5:30pm and 6:00-7:00pm
Boat trips: 12:00-1:00pm and 1:30-2:30pm
On board visiting hours: 3:00-7:00pm
*Occasionally, the boat may be away from its pier at an unscheduled time for refueling, cleaning, etc.
image: Nicholas Knight courtesy of Public Art Fund