ixia: public art think tank

ixia has taken over the ownership and management of Public Art Online from Arts Council England. The design and content of the website are currently being reviewed.

Bookmark and Share

First Public Art Commission on the High Line, New York - Spencer Finch, The River that Flows both Ways

Date uploaded: June 4, 2009

Creative Time, Friends of the High Line, and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation have announced the inaugural art commission by Spencer Finch for the opening of the first section of the High Line as a public park in June 2009.

Inspired by the light and the water of the Hudson River, The River that Flows Both Ways will transform an existing series of windows with 700 individually crafted panes of glass representing the water conditions on the Hudson River over a period of 700 minutes on a single day. The installation will be placed in a semi-enclosed former loading dock where the High Line runs through the Chelsea Market building, between 15th and 16th Streets, viewable from the street and on the High Line.

The work links the movement of the river, viewable from the site, with the historic movement of the railway and the atmospheric conditions of its location on Manhattan’s West Side. The piece, with its varied levels of color, translucency, and reflectivity, addresses the search for the color of water.

The title of this work comes from the original Native American word for the Hudson River, Muhheakantuck, which means “the river that flows both ways.” This flow in two directions is analogous to the way both water and glass work optically, as both windows and mirrors, allowing a view into depth as well as a reflection of the surrounding environment.

To create the colors of the glass, Finch fastened a camera to the railing of a tugboat, and used an intervelometer to photograph the Hudson River 700 times, once a minute for 700 minutes. The boat began the trip at the 79th Street Boat Basin and floated upriver with the current to 120th Street, reversed direction with the tide and traveled down to New York Harbor, and lastly back upriver. The boat flowed naturally with the river in both directions, rather than relying on its engines to propel it. After recording the same moment in 700 different points in space and time, Finch carefully selected the exact color of a single point of each photograph to produce a uniquely printed film to be laminated into glass.

The glass is organized to correspond with the pictures chronologically, starting from the top left (if one’s back is to the Chelsea market). The “minutes” progress to the right for 70 panes, and continue from left to right on the next row down.

“This project is deeply connected to the values of Creative Time,” said the organization’s president and artistic director Anne Pasternak, “including the transformation of public space, a critical engagement of site, and an interconnectedness with residents’ and visitors’ experience of place.”

“Ever since Joel Sternfeld first photographed the High Line’s overgrown landscape, art has been an essential and vibrant part of this project,” said Robert Hammond, Co-Founder of Friends of the High Line. “At once rhythmic and unpredictable, Spencer’s piece responds adeptly to the central juxtaposition of the High Line –  the interplay between the ex-industrial built environment and the High Line’s living landscape.”

“In addition to being one of the most exciting park projects in generations, the High Line will also be one of the city’s best outdoor art museums,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

You can read more about The High Line in Public Art Online's Case Study. 

You can read more on the Project Website

Visit The High Line website

Spencer Finch, The River that Flows Both Ways. The High Line, New York City. Photo: copyright Creative Time

Spencer Finch, The River that Flows Both Ways. The High Line, New York City. Photo: copyright Creative Time