Brooklyn Boro

Come see a 9/11 heroic fireboat with cool camo while you can

August 9, 2018 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It’s the final weekend to take a ride in Brooklyn on the John J. Harvey, a historic fireboat painted in a radiant "dazzle camouflage" by New York City-based artist Tauba Auerbach. Image by Nicholas Knight, courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

All aboard!

It’s the final weekend to take a ride in Brooklyn on the John J. Harvey, a historic fireboat painted in a radiant “dazzle camouflage” by New York City-based artist Tauba Auerbach.

Seasoned sailors and landlubbers alike are welcome to board the eccentric vessel from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 on Saturday and Sunday.

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The floating sculpture, dubbed “Flow Separation,” will leave Brooklyn for Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 at 3 p.m. on Sunday after its final two trips.

British painter Norman Wilkinson created the “dazzle camouflage” design during World War I to deter U-boats. The bizarre pattern made it difficult for Germans using attack periscopes to detect the exact distance, direction and speed of their targets.

When America eventually joined the war effort, U.S. boats were painted in a similar fashion at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

“[Flow Separation] has really captured people’s imaginations,” Public Art Fund adjunct curator Emma Enderby told the Brooklyn Eagle. “It’s an incredible work of art. Everything is meticulously hand-painted.”

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“One of the aspects of the original dazzle technique that Auerbach liked, was [that] it was a camouflage, but it wasn’t hiding,” she added. “It was more about confusing and outsmarting than it was about hiding. She wanted to use the original colors of the fireboat to pay homage to its history.”

Although the John J. Harvey was decommissioned in the 1990s, the boat was brought back into service during 9/11, when the vessel pumped water for 80 hours and rescued people from the wreckage.

Each trip varies slightly, but passengers will be taken along the Brooklyn waterfront, around the Statue of Liberty and near Lower Manhattan. Visitors will also be treated to a water gun show.

“Sometimes I think we forget that we’re completely surrounded by water,” Enderby said. “The history of the Hudson River and the East River, they’re important to making New York what New York is.

“It wouldn’t be the city without it being in these bodies of water so connecting people back to that, taking them out on the water, having the captain speak about the history of the fireboat, it’s important.”

The John J. Harvey was decommissioned in the 90s, but the boat was brought back into service during 9/11 when the vessel pumped water for 80 hours and rescued people from the base of the World Trade Center. Image: Nicholas Knight, courtesy Public Art Fund

The piece is co-commissioned by Public Art Fund and London-based arts program 14-18 NOW.

Public Art Fund has a history of bringing vibrant contemporary art to New York City through its free exhibitions. The nonprofit organization installs artwork that not only complements the surrounding urban environment, but ones that whimsically play with it too.

The group commissioned several prominent pieces in Brooklyn Bridge Park, including Erwin Wurm’s “Hot Dog Bus,” a modified, vintage Volkswagen Microbus that was transformed into a bloated and bizarre hot dog stand and is on display through Aug. 26.

Last May, the company brought Anish Kapoor’s “Descension” to Pier 1, a 26-foot-wide endless whirlpool.

The fund also brought Martin Creed’s “Understanding,” a 25-foot-tall, rotating neon sculpture to Pier 6 in May 2016.

A year earlier, the organization installed Jeppe Hein’s “Please Touch The Art,” a series of interactive sculptures, mirrors and fountains.

 

On Saturday, there are two trips at 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the John J. Harvey. On Sunday, there are two trips at noon and 1:30 p.m.

Free tickets for the trips are sold out, but standby passengers are encouraged. Standby visitors will be taken on a first come first served basis. The boat is anchored at Pier 6 and can be viewed from the shore at all other times.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

 

 


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