The Rising Currents exhibition at MoMA closed on October 11, and as we have worked on the de-installation of the show in the intervening weeks, I have had a chance to reflect on the exhibition and the project as a whole. As I’ve noted here previously, the workshop and exhibition were precedent-setting in many ways—for myself as a curator, for MoMA as an institution, and, in some ways, for the New York architecture and landscape design community.
Posts in ‘Rising Currents’
Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront is a unique exhibition for its subject matter, but also because of the process of putting together the exhibition. As graphic designers, it was heartwarming to have the full support of both the curator and the exhibition designer throughout the entire process. We were particularly gratified to be given the opportunity to take take our creativity beyond the title wall and into the individual displays—yeah!
As the first of five exhibitions in the Issues in Contemporary Architecture series, the unprecedented nature of Rising Currents presented a number of firsts, including some novel moments in MoMA’s exhibition-making process: the first time producing an exhibition without a checklist of objects well in advance of opening; the first time exhibition content and exhibition design developed so closely in tandem; and the first time our modest, minimalist model platform held the weight, intellectual and actual, of five whole teams of architects, planners, ecologists, and their well-intentioned installers. (We really put that poor thing to the test, but I think everyone is the better for it).
At one time, climate change could be thought of as a distant threat that could be diffused through prompt collective action. That time is past. Greenhouse gas emissions will not be reduced quickly enough to prevent significant changes to the composition of our atmosphere. Even as we hope for the best, we must prepare for the unpleasant eventualities that scientists expect will arise.
“YES,” I replied, without delay, to the e-mail announcing MoMA and the AIA Center for Architecture’s last boat tour of the New York harbor in August. Having missed several tours earlier in the summer, I could not let this opportunity pass. Through Rising Currents, MoMA had not only invited architects and landscape designers into their galleries to present works responding to a real-world dilemma, but was now taking the public out of its galleries and into the areas examined as well.
Early this summer, I was asked by MoMA educator Laura Beiles to write a poem responding to the show Rising Currents for a Modern Poets reading that took place aboard the New York Water Taxi on June 29. When I first walked into the gallery space, I was struck by the measuring sticks painted on the walls, showing how much the water will rise in the next century.
The Universal Magic of New York Harbor
The chosen place, Governors Island, as a granite island in the middle of New York Harbor, has an amazing context. This natural bay where the Hudson and East rivers meet and the moon drives the waters of the Atlantic through the Verrazano Narrows, causing the tides to swirl around the navel of the world, Manhattan, is without compare. Here is where generations came ashore to build America, fusing their collective cultures together to form a peerless metropolis. The water was the center. New York was built on the shores, so that its magnificent silhouette would be reflected by the waves. Tunnels and athletic bridges labor to connect all its boroughs. Like the Bosporus and the Bay at Rio de Janeiro, New York Harbor has a seemingly universal magic. God created a place, which every civilization would choose for its own. Every morning, Manhattan is born again out of briny fogs. With Ellis Island and Liberty Island, Governors Island has been elected to share this bay. Together they have witnessed an intense history, or have themselves become the symbols of it.
At the opening of the Rising Currents exhibition at MoMA, curator Barry Bergdoll used the word “glocal” to describe the impact of this exhibition. At first I thought I misheard, but then I realized he meant that the exhibition was part of the growing global grassroots movement to address the impact of climate change with smart, local solutions.
Rising Currents opened to the public yesterday. One of the premises of the exhibition is the value of creative collaboration, and in that spirit we encourage visitors to respond to the exhibition by posting comments on the project website at the kiosk inside the gallery.
The team leaders participated in a panel discussion moderated by myself and Guy Nordenson on Tuesday evening. We posed several questions to the teams, focusing on the unique format of the workshop phase at P.S.1. Specifically, we asked if the teams gained any valuable insights during the Open Houses, when the public was invited to see work in progress.
We started the installation of the teams’ wall materials and models in the gallery yesterday, with ARO’s team beginning the assembly of their model. We liked the correlation of the unpacking of “Lower Manhattan” from the Manhattan Mini-Storage boxes! Each of the five teams are coming to do on-site installations this week. We’re looking forward to the public opening of the Rising Currents exhibition on March 24.
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