"The Future of Water": Meet the Avant-Aquatic

First shown in Ireland, this sprawling collection of art and design covers all aspects of the planet's most essential substance—water!—with reverence, wit, and a great deal of ingenuity.

Befitting the spirit here—Eyebeam is a multimedia lab—several artists broaden simple concepts with high-tech methods. Katie Paterson placed a microphone in an outlet runoff lagoon for Iceland's largest glacier and connected it to a cell phone; a log lists the hundreds of calls people made from around the world to hear the serene sounds (playing on a recording here) of melting ice. David Bowen has done something similar with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's buoy 51003, which broke its mooring last year and now drifts (location unknown) in the Pacific while still transmitting information; Bowen's clever device collects its wave data and mechanically models the turbulent surface that 51003 is experiencing. Nearby, Julius Popp's carnivalesque Bit.Fall uses a large ink-jet-like system to "print" text in midair: Ejected drops of water form fleeting, plunging, five-foot-tall words, all culled from The New York Times' website.

Other work brings more introspection to the theme. In Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand's Hydrogeny, a laser illuminates the electrolysis of H2O—that old high school experiment—and turns the rising gas bubbles into a shimmering curtain. Fergal McCarthy loosely re-creates Burt Lancaster's pool-to-pool journey in The Swimmer (a 1968 film based on John Cheever's story), shooting this silent version in Dublin, where the artist slips across several waterways before subtly referring to Lancaster's teary last scene. And on July 28, Mary Coble will represent the arduous collection of water in developing countries by pouring 200 five-liter samples—donated by visitors—into a glass fountain, leaving the mix for communal tasting.

All the news that's fit to drip: Bit.Fall
Courtesy Eyebeam
All the news that's fit to drip: Bit.Fall

Details

'Surface Tension: The Future of Water'
Eyebeam Art + Technology Center
540 West 21st Street
212-937-6580, eyebeam.org
Through August 11

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In design, the ideas are practical and often elegant. A remote-controlled fleet of sail-powered oil-absorbers will help clean up the oceans. Converted fishing trawlers will collect floating plastic and mold the stuff, on board, into chairs. A parabolic reflector improves upon the low-cost UV-disinfection of drinking sources. The abundance of ideas might leave you feeling guilty for ever having taken water for granted.

ANDREA JUAN: 'NEW SPECIES NEW EDEN'

Combining global warming concerns with a Christo-like urge to adorn landscape in vibrant color, Argentinian artist Andrea Juan creates spectacularly incongruous visions by arranging fabric constructions on the frigid plains of Antarctica. Previous projects have focused on environmental trouble—acidification, methane surges—but this time, Juan is highlighting secrets revealed by disappearing ice: indications of life from long ago, when the region was temperate.

Near the scientific base on Seymour Island, her temporary installations (shown in photographs and a video) fantasize on the re-emergence of biological diversity. Striped in fluorescent hues, melon-size spheres lie clustered on white sea ice like cartoon eggs. Blanket-size patches of purple, orange, and bright red felt—suggestive of lichen, we're told—creep up a rocky promontory, as if to gain a view of their surroundings. A giant, translucent net of hot-pink tulle floats over the snow, dangling tentacles. Tenderly surreal, Juan's art seems to have heralded the real thing: the shockingly colossal bloom of phytoplankton recently discovered under ice at the other pole. Praxis International Art, 541 West 25th Street, 212-772-9478, praxis-art.com. Through July 14.

JAMES CATHCART: 'BONEYARDS'

The quirky architectural installations of the Iceberg Project—a collective co-founded by James Cathcart—have often involved the partial dismantling of structures, so it comes as no surprise to find that Cathcart's photographic interests stick to a similar theme. Here, in black-and-white images from 1988 and '89—all shot in Brooklyn—the artist revisits the once-thriving business of stripping cars for parts. Chassis skeletons, sometimes blackened by fires set to disguise their origins, sit bleakly in junky lots, but achieve—with these formal compositions—a sculptural dignity. Highlighting that aspect, the show's centerpiece is a vintage sedan, propped on its side in the position preferred for street-side thievery.

A second series focuses on Arizona's Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, where thousands of old military planes await their fate as scrap. Less interesting as art—mostly because authorities restricted Cathcart to shooting from a bus or plane—these pictures nevertheless offer intriguing glimpses of this airport of lost souls. Causey Contemporary, 92 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-218-8939, causeycontemporary.com. Through July 15.

 
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