Dive Into the Park Avenue Tunnel’s Aquatic Sound Art Installation
Jana Winderen's DIVE is a truly immersive experience.
Art tends to spring up in strange places during the summer, and this year is no exception. As part of New York City’s Summer Streets program, which creates a pedestrian alley down Park Avenue and Layfayette Street on three Saturday mornings in August, Jana Winderen has transformed the Park Avenue Tunnel at 33rd Street into a sound art installation titled DIVE (see artnet News article).
The piece is meant to recreate the experience of diving into the ocean depths, with audio recordings from deep underwater capturing sounds rarely heard by the human ear. The artist enlisted Tony Myatt, a professor of sound recording at the University of Surrey, to design a special audio system that creates 3D spatial sound within the space, to an otherworldly effect.
The appeal of DIVE isn’t just seeing and hearing the art installation. The project offers New Yorkers the rare opportunity to explore below the city streets, opening a subterranean passageway to foot traffic for only the second time ever (Summer Streets hosted another sound-based art experience, Voice Tunnel, by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, in the space last year). Accordingly, many people seemed to be more interested in taking photographs amid the glowing blue lights and rustic stonework than in soaking in the aquatic atmosphere created by Winderen.
There were joggers, parents with baby strollers, and confused tourists, most of whom paid little regard to signs at the tunnel’s entrance admonishing visitors to be quiet during their seven-block journey. artnet News went through DIVE twice, once at 11:30 a.m. and again at 12:15 p.m., and as it drew closer to the 12:30 p.m. closing time, the tunnel definitely grew louder and more crowded. For a more surreal experience, try going first thing in the morning.
Despite the noise pollution caused by irreverent New Yorkers, if one paused to soak in the atmosphere, it did become transformative. The sound of waves crashing against the shore played near the tunnel’s entrance, quickly gave way to more mysterious undersea noises, recorded by the artist under water in such diverse locations as Greenland, Iceland, Russia, Thailand, the Caribbean, the US, and Norway.
The artist is drawn to making audio recordings of the world’s hidden places, so her work seems like a natural fit in the relatively inaccessible Park Avenue Tunnel, restricted to vehicular traffic in a city where few drive. “I am fascinated by uncharted territory,” the artist said in an interview with tokafi. “There is not much generally known about sound communication in the oceans between fish, or how the inhabitants of the oceans orientate themselves with sound.”
artnet News would describe the installation as a welcome respite from the summer heat, were it not for how mercifully mild the season’s been thus far. DIVE offers a fairly unique experience—although one could conceivably liken it to a themed amusement park queue for a ride based on Finding Nemo. Unlike a theme park line, however, you might be disappointed when your underwater journey comes to an end.
DIVE will be on view in the Park Avenue Tunnel (33rd Street through 40th Street) during Summer Streets on August 9, and 16, from 7 a.m through 12:30 p.m.
Watch a video interview with Winderen about the project:
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