This art installation makes it look like visitors are climbing a four-story NYC brownstone

April 7, 2023

Photo by Gus Powell, courtesy of the Liberty Science Center

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Jersey City’s Liberty Science Center is launching one of its most ambitious exhibitions yet. The center is kicking off its Big Art initiative, a new art program with two inaugural installations by Argentine conceptual artist Leandro Erlich and Brooklyn-based artist and Pioneer Works founder Dustin Yellin. Titled The BuildingErlich’s interactive installation features a model of a New York City brownstone on the ground, allowing visitors to climb across its facade and pretend to hang from the fire escapes. A giant mirror reflects the scene, creating an optical illusion.

Erlich’s The Building is a site-specific installment inspired by a New York City apartment buulding, complete with a deli on the ground floor. The art piece is an optical illusion, allowing visitors, or “spect-actors” as Erlich calls them, to hang off balconies and appear as if they are hovering high above the ground.

Known for his architecturally-scaled creations, The Building is part of Erlich’s renowned Bâtiment series. The series of creations have already been brought to cities like Paris, London, Buenos Aires, and the Echigo-Tsumari region of Japan.

“Much of my work, including the Bâtiment series—and, by extension, The Building —finds its basis in questions I have about the way we perceive reality,” Erlich said in a statement. “I’m excited to be showing this piece at the Liberty Science Center, because art, the way I conceive of it, exists to pose questions about our understanding of the world; in many ways science achieves what we know it to the same way — by asking those very same questions.”

Yellin’s The Politics of Eternity is a 10,000-pound, seven-piece art installation that “crystallizes the artist’s inquiry into humanity and the world it inhabits as a collection of enmeshed networks.” The installation uses Yellin’s signature technique of embedding paint and print media onto multiple canvases of laminated glass. The piece took the artist 20,000 hours to complete.

The Politics of Eternity tells a story in three “narrative acts,” with the first showing a fictitious community gathering around an ancient totem and the second depicting a society in the distant future zipping around a futuristic metropolis with jetpacks. The final act is displayed on a set of lower panels that show the “march of modernity,” with ships and supertankers floating in a central sea that is fed on both ends by waterfalls coming out of the upper panels.

“Interdisciplinarity as a method of exploration often yields findings more interesting than when things function in isolation from one another,” Yellin said in a statement. “With the new arts program, Liberty Science Center demonstrates its fundamental belief in the ability of ideas to exist fluidly across different domains, inviting us to consider the different ways in which an understanding of our universe can be expressed, and to feel the expanses of our minds.”

Image courtesy of the artist

“Science, too often, is presented as a series of results, as opposed to the long, torturous process of someone toiling away in a lab for days, months, years on end to prove an educated hunch they had,” Paul Hoffman, CEO and President of the LSC, said. “Such processes are more often associated with art, which, in turn, is rarely acknowledged to pose questions the way science does”

Hoffman continued: “There’s a binary drawn between the two — they’re understood to exist on polar ends of the spectrum of how humans relate to the world, while in truth they have a lot more in common. By bringing Big Art to the Center, we hope to break down this boundary and further our pursuit of inspiring the next generation of innovators by emphasizing imagination and inspiration.

The Building will be on display through the summer and The Politics of Eternity will be on view through the next year.


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