Mel Chin is an American conceptual artist whose rigorous work addresses serious, complex topics with beauty, humor and open storylines.
With Wake, parts of a shipwreck, modeled on the USS Nightingale, rise up from the plaza of Times Square like the beached remains of a massive beast. A mysterious carved figurehead leads the wreckage. Though she seems eternally transfixed, she surprisingly comes alive to scan the sky above, and sighs.
For Mel Chin, the USS Nightingale crystallizes the ways in which the expanding economies of the past are prologue to our current societal and environmental dilemmas.
The USS Nightingale was a 19th-century expedition and merchant clipper ship that exemplifies New York City’s economic triumphs and the darker layers of its history. It transported coal, cotton, munitions and tea, and was employed as a slaving vessel before being commandeered into service by the US Navy during the American Civil War.
The figurehead of Jenny Lind, a 19th-century opera star known as the “Swedish Nightingale," once graced the prows of many ships in New York Harbor, including the USS Nightingale.
Wake was commissioned by Times Square Arts. It was engineered and fabricated in collaboration with the faculty, students and staff of UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio.
Wake is presented in partnership with No Longer Empty and the Queens Museum as a part of Mel Chin: All Over the Place, an exhibition spanning nearly four decades of Chin’s wide-ranging artistic practice – at sites including the Queens Museum, Times Square, the Broadway-Lafayette subway station, and streaming online with Soundtrack – creating an infinite loop of the artist’s thinking about our world and how we choose to occupy it.
For Times Square, Mel Chin uses the sculptural installation Wake and companion mixed reality experience Unmoored to open a physical and virtual gateway to the future of human existence, inviting participants to contemplate their place within the world’s transforming climate.
For more information and related programming: bit.ly/MelChinAOTP
Mel Chin: All Over the Place, including Wake and Unmoored, received lead support from the Henry Luce Foundation, Ford Foundation, Agnes Gund, Ann & James Harithas, and Ellen & Bill Taubman, with additional support from Sarah Arison, Surdna Foundation, Suzanne Deal Booth, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, Annette Blum, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Red Bull Arts New York, and Jaros, Baum & Bolles.
Images courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.