Like something out of a natural disaster film like “The Day After Tomorrow,” Times Square is submerged underwater and boats have replaced car traffic in a new augmented reality experience by artist Mel Chin called “Unmoored.”
Using a HoloLens headset from Microsoft on Thursday and Friday or a downloaded app on your phone, the city hub becomes an underwater adventure. Looking up, you will see a flotilla of boats sailing around actual buildings as they bump into one another and waves move all around them.
Chin also worked with UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio students to create “Wake,” a physical installation of a 24-by-34-by-60-foot hull of a ship and a carved 21-foot-tall animatronic female sculpture of a once-famous opera star, Jenny Lind, which sit at the Broadway plaza.
Why bring a ship, an opera singer and a flooded Times Square together? It’s all about the city’s role in the economy and its place in Earth’s warming climate, according to Times Square Arts and No Longer Empty, a curator of site-responsive exhibits.
“For this highly visible and iconic site, it is so powerful that Mel has developed his profound concerns around climate change into an artistic format that is so accessible and will strike the imagination of a vast array of audiences,” said Manon Slome, No Longer Empty’s chief curator. “In my view, he has risen to the occasion and asks that everyone consider their role in addressing this crisis, as well.”
Not as obvious a message as a flooded Times Square, the hull’s animatronic sculpture of Lind is a nod to the time she emerged as an artist in New York City (in the 1800s), when Manhattan was quickly becoming a center of trade, commerce, finance (including the shipping of guns and slaves), entertainment and tourism, the organizers say.
Chin’s work has been shown around the world at dozens of museums and is now being celebrated by the art community with “Mel Chin: All Over the Place,” a retrospective of his work across all 40 years of his career. Different pieces by Chin are placed across the city, including at the Queens Museum, the Broadway-Lafayette subway station and more.
To get the full experience at Times Square’s “Unmoored” using the HoloLens, head to the plaza between 46th and 47th streets between 2 and 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Otherwise view the experience on your phone any time. For help, docents will be around to help you Wednesdays through Fridays from 2 to 8 p.m. and on weekends from noon to 6 p.m. Visit unmoored.nyc for more information.