Monday, June 6, 2011

camminando | Governors Island: History, Quiet and Art Across the East River

If you are looking for a refuge from the overload of Manhattan urban life, take the (free of charge!) Governors Island Ferry.

In less than a ten-minute ride you will reach the 172-acre island which was called by the Native Americans Pagganck ("Nut Island") after its vegetation of hickory, oak, and chestnut trees. The island takes its current name from the British who assigned it to the "benefit and accommodation of His Majesty's Governors." The US Army used the island as a military facility for its strategic location and built Fort Jay, a square shaped courtyard surrounded by five bastions. In most recent years the island was transferred to the US Coast Guard, which used it as a base until 1996.

Governor Island is currently undergoing a revitalization plan and hosts several recreational and art events. The main art events of the 2011 summer:
The sculptures of Mark di Suvero, presented by the Storm King Art Center, are the largest, most “expensive” and least sustainable artworks in display — yet enjoyable, as they frame views of downtown Manhattan, with colorful assemblages of industrial steel.
Harvestworks organized an Electronic Art Festival with video and sound installations happening throughout summer 2011. The festival includes several video projections.

The sculptural installations by Figment, the community based art organization, are my favorite art presence in the island. The sculptures, in the spirit of Figment are participatory and engage the viewer in a series of actions, from taking photographs, climbing or playing minigolf.

A minor disappointment: none of the art installation is really site specific, as related to Governors Island historical, cultural or natural landscape — yet I spent a quiet and artful afternoon and it is always refreshing to see art outside the most commercial venues of Manhattan.