Down Where It's Wetter

Artist Mel Chin addresses climate change with virtual reality underwater world in Times Square

Art East On View
A glimpse into the mixed reality world of Unmoored in Times Square. (Courtesy Microsoft)

This summer, visitors to Times Square can take in an underwater virtual reality experience, courtesy of the North Carolina-based conceptual artist Mel Chin and technology giant Microsoft. The site-specific mixed-reality public art installation titled Unmoored will come to life from July 11 through September 5.

Mel Chin tests the Unmoored augmented reality mobile app in Times Square. (Courtesy Microsoft)

Chin tackles the topic of climate change, imagining a future where melting ice caps cause the city to go underwater. As visitors look through VR goggles, they can see a ‘nautical traffic jam’ of 3-D modeled ships, each with their own unique identification number and name. Ships move slowly in the city, bumping into each other and buildings, creating waves rendered by realistic animation and sound effects.

Visitors can also view Wake, another public artwork by Chin, which “evokes the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of marine mammals,” beside a sculpture of the 19th century opera singer Jenny Lind.

Chin chose New York City as the site for the word because it represents the center of trade, entertainment, and capitalism for the country. Its history is loaded with topics that resonate today, like guns and slavery. The USS Nightingale, which was historically involved with the shipping of slaves, is digitally recreated in the Unmoored experience.

Visitors experience Unmoored in Times Square using the HoloLens and an augmented reality mobile app. (Courtesy Microsoft)

The installations are part of an exhibition titled Mel Chin: All Over the Place, presented with the Queens Museum of Art and NYC-based, nonprofit arts organization No Longer Empty in various sites around New York. Times Square visitors can view the show through mobile devices via Unmoored’s mobile app, which is now available for download and use. Check this link for more details.

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