Aquarium art brings climate debate to NY Times Square

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PERFORMANCE ART in a giant water tank is bringing climate science to New York’s Times Square as Donald Trump has the world guessing on whether the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

The transparent aquarium, in which performers somersault, dive and react as the tank rapidly fills, empties and refills with water, cost upwards of $750,000 and is the brainchild of an artist wanting to raise awareness about climate change.

The 12-ton glass unit will periodically flood and drain until Saturday as part of the World Science Festival, as a rotating cast of performers respond creatively to the changing levels of water.

The Holoscenes installation has already exhibited in London, Miami, Sarasota and Toronto, but its creator said Times Square — “the most famous public space in the world” — was the perfect setting.


“I wanted to actually move 3,500 gallons of water very fast with a human body in the midst of it, because I think that makes people feel something in their gut,” said Lars Jan, artistic director of the Early Morning Opera performance and art lab.

With nearly 450,000 people a day estimated to pass through Times Square, the beating heart of Manhattan crammed with advertising boards next to New York’s famed theater district, the organizers are hoping for a big response.

“Climate is the focus of our footprint here this year,” said Brian Greene, co-founder of the World Science Festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary and designed to change public perception of science.

US media reports saying that Trump intends to pull the United States out of the Paris Accord are “very disturbing,” Greene said.

“Science is something that should unite the world,” he said. “And for people to not feel connected to these vital ideas, that is disastrous for the future,” he added.

Jan said he was inspired by images of flooding from around the world and paid tribute to hydraulic engineers, performers, designers, artists and scientists who had collaborated for years on the project.

“I think it’s short-sighted to think too much about the Trump administration,” he told reporters.

“On whatever side of the political aisle you happen to be on, we need to think about changing fundamentally our habits in order to adapt to the realities of climate science. So I hope this is a small part in that conversation,” he said.

The festival also features an interactive dance floor in Times Square that translates human movement into electrical power, lighting up a monitor depending on how much energy the dancers put into their performance. — AFP