“Moving Chains” to Open on Governors Island October 15
Oct 4, 2022 8:23 am
Creative Time, Governors Island Arts, and Times Square Arts are pleased to announce the opening of Moving Chains on Governors Island on October 15, 2022, the second chapter of Charles Gaines’s The American Manifest. The 110-foot kinetic sculpture activated by colossal chains rotating overhead anchors a public art project that addresses the reality of systemic racism in the United States of America through embodied and visual experience, and provides critical historical context on our extraordinary political division today.
Announced in June 2022, Charles Gaines’s The American Manifest is an exhibition of multimedia sculpture, performances, and educational sessions that unfold in three parts across New York City and Cincinnati, Ohio over 2022 – 23. The opening of Moving Chains on Governors Island follows the project’s première in Times Square this July 2022 with Manifestos 4: The Dred and Harriet Scott Decision and Roots. Opening next, Moving Chains will be on view to the public on Governors Island in New York Harbor from October 15, 2022 through June 2023, before it moves to the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati.
“The second chapter in Charles Gaines’s monumental The American Manifest, Moving Chains is Governors Island Arts’ largest public art commission to date and will provide a deeply immersive opportunity for Island visitors and all New Yorkers to engage with the complex histories and legacies of Governors Island, New York Harbor, and the United States as a whole,” said Meredith Johnson, Vice President of Arts and Culture and Head Curator at the Trust for Governors Island. “Governors Island Arts is committed to supporting transformative artistic interventions that encourage New Yorkers to engage with the most pressing issues of our time, and we are honored to work with Charles Gaines and our incredible partners to bring Moving Chains to Governors Island.”
Commissioning partner Creative Time Executive Director Justine Ludwig, elaborates on the project, “Creative Time is committed to commissioning works of art on the scale of dreams that challenge expectation. Ambitious public art projects, like the Moving Chains, allow us to forefront difficult questions and reexamine historical truths. Charles Gaines has provided a clarity of vision, and executed it on a large-scale that is impossible to ignore.”
New York City welcomes the momentous public art engagement for New Yorkers and its visitors, “Each year, Governors Island expands its contributions to public art, culture and creativity in our city,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria-Torres Springer. “I encourage all New Yorkers to take a trip out to experience Moving Chains, Chapter Two of Charles Gaines’s The American Manifest—a thought-provoking and consequential sculpture and the Island’s largest public art commission to date.”
For nearly 50 years, Charles Gaines has distinguished himself as an artist dedicated to the perception of subjective and objective truths. In the artist’s first commission of public art, in development for nearly a decade, Gaines confronts the American origin story — the nation’s founding and its expansion — with a series of artworks that dissect a narrative riddled with falsehoods and omissions that have furthered the project of white supremacy. Tracing the flow of the historically charged rivers and ports of New York City and Cincinnati’s Ohio River, Gaines offers a multifaceted interrogation of the dual role of the northern states in both maintaining and abolishing slavery, and the enduring implications of the racialized systems, myths, and logics that underpin the nation’s economic and legal foundations today.
ABOUT MOVING CHAINS ON GOVERNORS ISLAND
Opening October 15, 2022
Moving Chains is a monumental 110-foot long kinetic sculpture built from steel and sustainably harvested Sapele, commonly referred to as African Mahogany, a tree native to West Africa. Created by Charles Gaines with collaborating architects TOLO Architecture, the sculpture, which people may enter and walk through, contains nine custom made chains weighing over 1,600 pounds each running its length overhead. Eight of the chains are representative of the pace of the currents in New York Harbor, while a ninth central chain moves more quickly, recalling the pace of ship and barge traffic that has traveled the city’s waterways for centuries. The overall effect of the weight and motion of the chains produces a rhythmic, undulating loop, evocative of the sounds of New York Harbor at the entrance to the Hudson River, known to the area’s Indigenous residents the Lenape as Mahicantuck, the river that runs two ways. Starting during the Dutch and British occupations, this waterway near present-day lower Manhattan would become an economic pillar of the transatlantic slave trade and seed the system of racial capitalism foundational to the United States. Facing the Statue of Liberty — an international symbol of benevolence and human rights, distinguished by the abolitionist iconography of a broken shackle and chain at her right foot—Moving Chains calls attention to the nation’s economic, judicial, and political frameworks that continue the legacy of slavery today.
To accompany Moving Chains, Creative Time and Governors Island Arts will present a conference on abolition and the limits of the law on the Island this Spring 2023, reconsidering legal and cultural definitions of freedom and the unfinished project of abolition. Bringing together an interdisciplinary group of thinkers, the accompanying programs will ask, how can liberation be defined outside of the confines of slavery and racial capitalism? What does freedom look like? What tactics are necessary to get there? Who is leading us in this work?
On the occasion of Moving Chains, Black Gotham Experience, a project that reimagines spaces directly impacted by the African Diaspora established by artist and historian Kamau Ware, will offer an audio tour of the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial patterns that have informed a centuries-long relationship with what are known today as the East and Hudson Rivers and New York Harbor. Access to the tour will be available throughout the pathway to Moving Chains via QR code and on both the Creative Time and Governors Island Arts websites.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN MANIFEST
Sited within two key cities whose histories have shaped the identity of America, this project invites the public to consider New York and Cincinnati’s waterways’ in both upholding slavery and securing liberation, a duality that challenges reductive narratives of the history of slavery in America, and contributes to the ongoing dialogue about systems and cycles of racism, extraction, and oppression experienced today.
Charles Gaines: The American Manifest is made possible in New York and Cincinnati by the visionary support of the Ford Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, VIA Art Fund, FotoFocus, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Charina Endowment Fund, Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, Morgan Stanley, Wave Pool, and mediaThe Foundation, inc.
Major support is provided by Hauser & Wirth, Suzanne and Bob Cochran, Marie Douglas, Karl Iagnemma and Ann-Kristen Lund, Jacob and Deborah Kotzubei, Jon Neidich, Bob and Renee Parsons, Sanjeev Rathi, Eric Richter, Waddell Family Foundation, Jed Walentas, Christopher Walker, Margaret Wang, Debi and Steven Wisch, and additional anonymous donors.
We are also grateful for the support of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) in partnership with the City Council and Mayor Eric Adams; and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.
Charles Gaines’s Moving Chains was developed in collaboration with TOLO Architecture, as well as numerous production partners in its design and construction including, engineering and mechanical design by AOA; installation and build by Torsilieri & Sons; sound engineering by Arup; and fabrication work by Stronghold Industries and Rozell Industries.
ABOUT CHARLES GAINES
A pivotal figure in the field of conceptual art, Charles Gaines’s body of work engages formulas and systems that interrogate relationships between the objective and the subjective realms. Using a generative approach to create a series of works in a variety of mediums, he has built a bridge between the early conceptual artists of the 1960s and 1970s and subsequent generations of artists pushing the limits of conceptualism today. Gaines lives and works in Los Angeles. He recently retired from the CalArts School of Art, where he was on faculty for over 30 years and established a fellowship to provide critical scholarship support for Black students in the M.F.A. Art program. He has been the subject of numerous exhibitions in the United States and around the world, most notably a mid-career survey at the Pomona College Museum of Art and the Pitzer College Art Gallery in Claremont CA, as well as a museum survey of his Gridwork at The Studio Museum, Harlem NY, and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles CA. His work has also been presented at the 1975 Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2015. An exhibition of his work is currently on long term view at Dia:Beacon in New York. In addition to his artistic practice, Gaines has published several essays on contemporary art, including ‘Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism’ (University of California, Irvine, 1993) and ‘The New Cosmopolitanism’ (California State University, Fullerton, 2008). In 2019, Gaines received the 60th Edward MacDowell Medal. He was inducted into the National Academy of Design’s 2020 class of National Academicians; as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters in May 2022. In January 2023, Gaines will be the subject of a major one person exhibition of new work at Hauser & Wirth New York.