When we first heard about Marie Lorenz’s Frieze Project, an extension of her long-running “Tide and Current Taxi” series, in which the Brooklyn-based artist takes people around New York waterways in small rowboats she has designed and built using salvaged materials, we knew we had to get on board, being longtime fans of New York’s underutilized maritime side. We were especially excited about the “taxi” prospect after traveling to Frieze via the fair’s torturous school-bus shuttle, a ridiculously bumpy, shock-absorber-free sojourn from the Guggenheim that makes the Coney Island Cyclone feel like a kiddie ride. Lorenz’s project is described on the Frieze site as “an alternative ferry service,” so we went to sign up for a trip at the outdoor wooden dispatch booth as an alternate exit from the fair, which runs through May 12 on Randall’s Island. The small wooden structure is decorated with a strung-together collection of broken bottles and animal bones Lorenz has picked up on shorelines and landfills during her travels, and a monitor streams a live feed from a camera on the bow of the rowboat, showing the current journey. We asked if we could be dropped off on the other side of the river at the end of the day. Charlie, the dispatcher who would also accompany us on our excursion, quickly said that Lorenz had been waiting for someone to ask that, as everyone else had taken the trip more as a tour of the shoreline than as an actual taxi. We weren’t about to get back on that school bus, and the ferry was stupid expensive ($19 round trip only), so we were ready for an adventure.
At seven o’clock, we returned to the dispatch booth, where we put on big boots and life preservers and were led over to the boat, which looks a lot smaller when you see it on the vast East River. We took an instant liking to Lorenz, a charming and energetic young woman whose father was a water enthusiast. She first started “Tide and Current Taxi” back in 2005, documenting every single ride. We waited for some of the big ferries to pass by so as not to get caught in their wake, then began our journey paddling across the river while Lorenz tried to figure out where it would be best to drop us off on the other side, as there were no nearby easy debarkation points on the Manhattan shoreline. We all decided to use the remnants of an abandoned pier, where we would have to do some crawling and jumping over rotting wood and crumbling cement to make it onto the FDR Drive walkway. Ever the good sport, Lorenz climbed out first, just to make sure it could be done, raising her arms in triumph when she accomplished the feat. The two of us followed, discovering that it was not quite as simple as Lorenz had made it look, but it was absolutely thrilling as we both landed on the sidewalk, raising our arms in triumph as well (and checking to see if any cops were around). Happiness mixed with a little sadness as we wished Lorenz and Charlie a fond farewell; I think all four of us felt we had shared a special, unique experience, one that we will treasure for a long time.