Times Square Arts, No Longer Empty and Queens Museum present artist Mel Chin’s large-scale sculpture Wake and companion mixed reality piece Unmoored — developed with Microsoft — to explore a surrealistic experience of rising waters in Times Square. The works will be active July 11 to September 5 at the Broadway Plaza between 46th Street and 47th Street as part of Mel Chin: All Over the Place. Visitors will be invited to engage with the sixty-foot animatronic installation Wake, which evokes the hull of a 19th century shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of a marine mammal. Viewers can simultaneously explore the blending of physical and digital worlds in Unmoored through a Microsoft HoloLens headset (July 11-13) or their mobile phones.
Through the ambitious paired works Wake and Unmoored in Times Square, Chin takes on the 19th century origins of celebrity and marketing, our changing relationship with nature, and the 21st Century ability to project an audience deep into the future through technology. Chin creates a virtual gateway to an alternate future to test viewers’ imaginations about our place in the Earth’s transforming climate.
Mel Chin, artist, said: “I see Times Square as most Americans might; it represents the endless clock, the public heart of New York City,” says artist Mel Chin. “Placing a work in Times Square tests its capacity to engage the imaginations of a population that is more diverse than in any museum or gallery I can think of.”
Wake is a large-scale (24 feet by 34 feet by 60 feet) installation that evokes the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of a marine mammal. The structure is linked with a carved 21-foot-tall animatronic female sculpture — accurately derived from a figurehead of the opera star, “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind — that was once mounted on the 19th Century clipper ship, the USS Nightingale.
Jenny Lind, the first superstar of the 1800s, entered a New York City emerging as a center of trade, commerce, finance, entertainment, and tourism. Chin begins his Times Square takeover with her as a figurehead of a complex history that includes the shipping (by the USS Nightingale, among others) of guns and slaves that augmented this burgeoning city’s economy.
Wake was engineered and fabricated at UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio by an interdisciplinary team of students, faculty, staff, and community artists led by Chin, who was the university’s Black Mountain College Legacy Fellow.
Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance said, “Times Square welcomes Mel Chin and his two artworks that bring together sculpture, animatronics, and mixed reality to trigger a conversation about the fragile future of our planet with the hundreds of thousands of people that visit this area every day.
Hitomi Iwasaki, Director of Exhibitions/Curator at the Queens Museum said, “The Queens Museum is honored to be a part of this collaboration that situates an ambitious public art project in one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations, where commerce, media, and entertainment intersect. Incorporating holographic technology to its best effectiveness, Wake and Unmoored will speak to us all on a deeply profound level.”
Student sculptural lead, Jeb Hedgecock of UNC Asheville said, “Every day working on this giant sculpture, I’ve been confronted by my own size and humanity’s scale. With Mel’s installation, Times Square triggers not passive awe but mental engagement — reassessing history and environmental threats. We are individual people, but we are capable of creating change and beauty, and there we are all together.” Hedgecock served as Chin’s intern and worked closely for almost a year with seven engineering students on the animatronic statue.
About the Artist
Mel Chin (b. 1951, Houston, TX) is a conceptual artist known for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multidisciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that conjoin cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas. Chin received a B.S. from Peabody College, Nashville, TN. His work has been widely exhibited nationally, and internationally, including at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Menil Collection, Houston, TX; Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, NY; The Fabric Workshop, Philadelphia, PA; Swarthmore College, Philadelphia, PA; Station Museum, Houston, TX; Frederieke Taylor Gallery, New York, NY; Museum Het Domein, Sittard Netherlands; Thomas Rehbein Galerie, Cologne, Germany; The Nave Museum, Victoria, TX; Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC; and New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA, among others. Chin has received many grants and awards, including those from National Endowment for the Arts, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Creative Capital, New York Foundation for the Arts, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, among others, and several honorary doctorates. Chin lives in Egypt Township, North Carolina.
About Times Square Arts
Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists to experiment and present projects within one of the world’s most popular commercial centers and most iconic urban places. With projects such as Steve Lambert’s Capitalism Works for Me! True/False and Arles del Rio’s Nearness, Times Square Arts is committed to presenting artworks that encourage meaningful dialogue and amplify underrepresented voices on our highly visible public platform. www.TSq.org/Arts