This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Swoon’s “Submerged Motherlands” fills the Brooklyn Museum’s fifth-floor rotunda (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Brooklyn Museum
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, fifth floor
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Wednesday - Sunday through August 24, $12 ($15 including “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”)
Art Off the Wall: Swoon’s “Submerged Collaborations,” June 12, $15, 6:30

“Is this insane? Is this dangerous? Should I not do this?” Brooklyn-based artist Caledonia Dance Curry, aka Swoon, asked an engineer when she first began putting together “Submerged Motherlands,” her enormous, environmentally conscious installation at the Brooklyn Museum. Filling much of the institution’s fifth-floor rotunda, the site-specific exhibit features two rickety-looking handmade junk rafts, Alice and Maria, that Swoon constructed using found materials, then sailed in New York waters for “Miss Rockaway Armada” and along Venice’s Grand Canal as part of her “Swimming Cities of Serenissima” project. At the center is a tall tree, made of dense layers of dyed fabric and elaborately detailed white cut-paper leaves, that rises to the rotunda’s seventy-two-foot-high circular skylight. The walls of the room suggest water and submersion, splattered with swoops of blue and green paint applied using fire extinguishers, interacting with light and shadow. “Submerged Motherlands” references climate change, Hurricane Sandy, and Doggerland, the Ice Age-era landmass that connected Great Britain and Europe and was destroyed by a tsunami; it also has conceptual ties to the Konbit Shelter sustainable building project in Haiti begun by Swoon and other artists shortly after the 2010 earthquake, as well as Swoon and art collective Transformazium’s Braddock Tiles community-based microfactory being built in an abandoned church in Pennsylvania. “Submerged Motherlands” also includes a healing gazebo decorated with corrugated cardboard honeycombs and wasp nests, and large-scale prints and drawings that recall Swoon’s wheatpastes, which dotted the streets of the city in recent years; here she depicts mothers and children and taliswomen, from a homeless Buddha figure to a friend breast-feeding to depictions of Swoon’s mother’s life cycle; her drug- and alcohol-addicted mother passed away from lung cancer last year.

Theres a distinctly feminist quality to Swoons site-specific installation at the Brooklyn Museum (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

There’s a distinctly feminist quality to Swoon’s site-specific installation at the Brooklyn Museum (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Is it insane and dangerous? Probably, but we’re all the better for Swoon’s having gone ahead with “Submerged Motherlands,” an intimate, compelling, and welcoming exploration of life, death, and rebirth. The exhibition continues through August 24; on June 12, Swoon will participate in “Art Off the Wall: Swoon’s ‘Submerged Collaborations,’” which will include a screening of Flood Tide, Todd Chandler’s fictional film about the “Swimming Cities” project; a talk with Swoon and some of her collaborators; and a silent procession from the auditorium to the installation for a live performance by the Submerged Motherlands Orchestra (consisting of Mirah, Marshall LaCount, Chandler, the band North America, and violinist Chloe Swantner).

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