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Hands-on experience: Park sculpture says ‘Please Touch the Art’

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Photo gallery

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A slippery slope: The bends of “Modified Social Bench #3” beg to be climbed, but reporter Danielle Furfaro failed to find a foothold.
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Water wall: Children play in “Appearing Rooms,” a water sculpture that is part of the “Please Touch the Art” series at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
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Lost between the shard: “Mirror Labrynith NY” is one of the coolest parts of the “Please Touch the Art” series at Brooklyn Bridge Park, as reporter Danielle Furfaro found out.
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Twisted sitter: The pretzel shape of “Modified Social Bench #6” can lead to awkward encounters with the person across the bench.
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More peach than orange: “Modified Social Bench #13” is curvy and easy to sit on.
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Through the looking glass: Stepping into Brooklyn Bridge Park’s “Mirror Labyrinth NY” is like stepping into another world, says reporter Danielle Furfaro.

We took this art at its word. A series of sculptures titled “Please Touch the Art” recently arrived in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Created by Danish artist Jeppe Hein, the interactive artwork is scattered from Empire Fulton Ferry by the Manhattan Bridge to Pier 6, near the base of Atlantic Avenue. The Public Art Fund, who installed the work, encourages people to seek out and interact with the 16 “modified social benches,” a water sculpture called “Appearing Rooms,” and “Mirror Labyrinth NY,” a collection of mirror-polished steel planks. We sent reporter Danielle Furfaro to touch the art.

I ventured to Brooklyn Bridge Park on a hot, sunny afternoon to check out “Please Touch the Art,” a series of sculptures that encourage people to interact with them. The 18 installations are spread throughout the piers of the park and create stunning visual interplays with the lush grass and waves of water around them. But the visuals are only part of the story. Each piece begs to be played with or climbed on.

First stop: the social benches! Each bench feels the same: hard, painted metal that is surprisingly cool to the touch. They are not terribly comfortable for sitting, but they are fun to look at. The bright orange benches bend and swoop erratically and fold into themselves.

I settled first on “Modified Social Bench #6,” which is shaped in a figure eight. The arrangement meant that I found myself staring directly at the man sitting on the opposite side of the bench. The bench may have tried to force me to be social, but feeling far too awkward, I got up and looked for the next piece. Further down the park I discovered “Modified Social Bench #3,” a six-foot mountain of a bench, with only a tiny space to sit at its summit. I tried to climb, but I could get neither grip nor foothold on it, and kept sliding back onto the ground.

“Appearing Rooms” is the most interactive of the pieces, and certainly the most popular. It is a large square block, on which jets of water pop up suddenly to arrange various rooms with liquid walls. On a weekday afternoon, it was filled with screaming children, so my overall impression of the piece was “wet” and “loud.” Standing on the grid, I tried to guess which jets would erupt next, but I was mostly busy dodging tiny children. Later in the summer, I can see overheated Dumbo office workers stopping here to cool off.

The mirror labyrinth, a spiral maze constructed of dozens of double-sided mirror shards, was the most fun for me. Stepping into it was like visiting an alternate universe where distance, size, and shape are perpetually changing. It was a bit dizzying, but also very inspiring. I walked around the interior, but with flashing reflections of the grass, sky, and other visitors, it was impossible to tell what was where, or even where I was. The only mundane portion was the muddy ground below my feet.

“Please Touch the Art” at Brooklyn Bridge Park. www.brooklynbridgepark.org. “Appearing Rooms” on display until Sept. 28, all other art until April 17, 2016.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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