Rendering of The American Manifest, Moving Chains on Governors Island courtesy of TOLO Architecture

October 2022-June 2023
The Hills - The Hills - Outlook Hill

Pre­sent­ed by Cre­ative Time, Gov­er­nors Island Arts, and Times Square Arts

Trac­ing the flow of these north­east­ern water­ways — the his­tor­i­cal­ly charged rivers and ports of New York City and Cincinnati’s Ohio Riv­er, which are not often con­sid­ered in rela­tion to each oth­er — 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 that per­sist today. Through large-scale son­ic and sculp­tur­al works, the project grap­ples with the entan­gled sys­tems of prop­er­ty, cit­i­zen­ship, dis­place­ment, and free­dom that enables and fur­thers racial cap­i­tal­ism, a mech­a­nism for enforc­ing white suprema­cy in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. Gaines’s work for The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest orig­i­nates with the 1857 Dred and Har­ri­et Scott his­toric Supreme Court deci­sion, which decreed that peo­ple of African ances­try were not U.S. cit­i­zens and there­fore could not sue for their right to free­dom, and demands the view­er con­tend with the lega­cies and after­lives of chat­tel slav­ery, Man­i­fest Des­tiny, and colonialism.

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 and lega­cy of slav­ery in Amer­i­ca. Times Square, often called the cross­roads of the world,” exists as a glob­al emblem of cap­i­tal­ism, com­merce, and media, with over 300,000 dai­ly pedes­tri­ans. Five miles away, in the mid­dle of the New York Har­bor, Gov­er­nors Island feels com­par­a­tive­ly serene. The Island played an inte­gral role in the city’s eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal his­to­ry; it served as a Lenape fish­ing and hunt­ing camp, an ear­ly colo­nial Dutch set­tle­ment, a home for the British rul­ing Gov­er­nors and, lat­er, a U.S. Mil­i­tary and Coast Guard base from the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War until the late 1990s, before becom­ing pub­licly acces­si­ble in the mid-2000s. Halfway across the coun­try, Cincinnati’s John G. and Phyl­lis W. Smale River­front Park con­nects down­town Cincin­nati to the Ohio Riv­er, which his­tor­i­cal­ly served as a demar­ca­tion point and trans­porta­tion route between south­ern slave states and the free states in the north.

Times Square, New York | July 13 – Sep­tem­ber 23, 2022
Broad­way and 46th St, Duffy Square

The project orig­i­nates in Times Square with a per­for­mance-based instal­la­tion, Man­i­festos 4: The Dred and Har­ri­et Scott Deci­sion, and sculp­tur­al instal­la­tion, Roots.

Con­tin­u­ing Gaines’s Man­i­festos series, and specif­i­cal­ly build­ing upon his Man­i­festos 4 com­po­si­tion with the cre­ation of a new vocal arrange­ment, this per­for­mance trans­forms the orig­i­nal text of the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred and Har­ri­et Scott his­toric deci­sion, which decreed that peo­ple of African ances­try were not U.S. cit­i­zens and there­fore could not sue for their right to free­dom. Fea­tur­ing a wood­wind quin­tet, piano and tenor, the 5‑part per­for­mance was staged on July 13 and July 14 in Times Square.

Roots, on view from July 13 through Sep­tem­ber 23, 2022, con­sists of a series of sev­en Amer­i­can Sweet­gum trees, pre­sent­ed with the root sys­tems upside down and paint­ed to a sur­re­al and dystopic effect. The trees, which were indige­nous to the east­ern Unit­ed States and grew in Times Square, a forest­ed area and beaver pond pri­or to col­o­niza­tion, are known for their impres­sive root sys­tems that require vast open spaces to grow. 

Free pub­lic art tours every Thurs­day! Meet at Roots in Duffy Square at 2pm.

Gov­er­nors Island, New York | Octo­ber 2022 – June 2023

Sit­ed at the base of Out­look Hill on Gov­er­nors Island with views of the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty, Ellis Island, and Low­er Man­hat­tan, Mov­ing Chains — a 100 foot-long immer­sive, kinet­ic sculp­ture — evokes the hull of a ship rever­ber­at­ing with the low rum­ble of nine chains churn­ing over­head, while vis­i­tors pass through below. Eight of the chains move along at the pace of New York Harbor’s cur­rents, while a cen­tral ninth chain moves notice­ably faster, at the speed of the ships and barges that have trav­eled the city’s water­ways over cen­turies. Com­pli­cat­ing nar­ra­tives of slav­ery that eas­i­ly demar­cate north­ern virtue and south­ern sin, Mov­ing Chains illu­mi­nates the exchange of peo­ple, cap­i­tal, and goods between the north and south, call­ing atten­tion to the nation’s eco­nom­ic, judi­cial, and polit­i­cal frame­works that con­tin­ue to shape the lives and define the free­doms of Amer­i­cans today.

The project will be accom­pa­nied by a series of pub­lic pro­grams that re-con­sid­er legal and cul­tur­al def­i­n­i­tions of free­dom, bring­ing togeth­er an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group of thinkers.

Cincin­nati, Ohio | Sum­mer 2023

Open­ing in mul­ti­ple loca­tions through­out Cincin­nati in Sum­mer 2023, The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest will trav­el to the banks of the Ohio Riv­er in Cincinnati’s John G. and Phyl­lis W. Smale River­front Park, accom­pa­nied by an addi­tion­al site-spe­cif­ic com­mis­sioned work to deep­en the geo­graph­ic nuances of colo­nial expan­sion. The Ohio Riv­er has his­tor­i­cal­ly rep­re­sent­ed both a route to lib­er­a­tion, as the one-time gate­way between slave and free soil” states, as well as a his­toric route used to trans­port enslaved per­sons to the infa­mous port of New Orleans. The project’s jour­ney to this loca­tion from New York makes a final con­nec­tion between the plan­ta­tion log­ic of peo­ple as prop­er­ty, fed­er­al­ly rec­og­nized in the case of Dred and Har­ri­et Scott, and the era of Man­i­fest Des­tiny and west­ward expan­sion, which estab­lished the Amer­i­can West land­scape as the right­ful prop­er­ty of the Unit­ed States government.


Charles Gaines: The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest is made pos­si­ble in New York and Cincin­nati by the vision­ary sup­port of the Ford Foun­da­tion, Lam­bent 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, and mediaThe Foun­da­tion, inc.

Major sup­port is pro­vid­ed by Hauser & Wirth, Jacob and Deb­o­rah Kotzubei, Bob and Renee Par­sons, San­jeev Rathi, Christo­pher Walk­er, Debi and Steven Wisch, and Anonymous.

We are also grate­ful for the sup­port of the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts; pub­lic funds from the New York City Depart­ment of Cul­tur­al Affairs in part­ner­ship with the City Coun­cil; and the New York State Coun­cil on the Artswith the sup­port of Gov­er­nor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

Getting to The Hills
20 Minutes from Soissons Landing 15 Minutes from Yankee Pier
10 Minutes from Soissons Landing 7 Minutes from Yankee Pier
The Hills - The Hills - Outlook Hill