J'Adore: 'Waterfalls'


For starters, I give you one gorgeous Vincent Laforet New York photo. The grandeur of Manhattan at this moment overshadows Olafur Eliasson’s The New York City Waterfalls.

After reading Jerry Saltz’s small review of these four, live water “monuments” in Manhattan’s harbor, I feel better. I, too, was underwhelmed.

Yet the waterfalls seem dinkier than you’d think. And they’re not spectacular. From the South Street Seaport, where you can supposedly see all four, the one near the Manhattan Bridge is almost hidden. Some viewers may have trouble finding the one by Governors Island. You can’t hear any of them so you’re never really overwhelmed by the sound of pouring water. In addition, it’s obvious that these aren’t waterfalls at all; they’re just plumbing, tall metal scaffoldings with pipes pumping cascades of water off the top. So don’t go to The New York City Waterfalls wanting to be wowed.

Saltz is correct.  The Waterfalls sink slowly into your consciousness, grounding me into the totality of the Manhattan landscape. I ask myelf: “Was I expectating Las Vegas? After all, it was I who wrote that Vegas has no soul.

Accepting my foolery then, I still remain detached from the Waterfalls. They’re not like Paley Park, where the mist is so close to me, that it falls on my eyelashes, drowing out every city sound for blocks. I have a truly intimate relationship with the small sanctuary that’s Paley Park. These Waterfalls keep me at arm’s length.

Looking at Laforet’s gorgeous photo, I ask myself  … is the waterfall a New York nature accessory, dressing up Manhattan Bridge? If it wasn’t there, would I miss it. Like a beautiful woman in a crowded room of well-dressed people, does she add something to the landscape? The answer to that question is “yes”.

I was about to write, that the Waterfalls isn’t like Dita Von Teese dancing in a martini glass … but in fact, perhaps they are just that. Dita has beauty and restraint, after all … even if she is a burlesque dancer in a grimey world of sensation and nonrareified appetites.

Yes, with lower expectations now, I appreciate the Waterfalls more than I did, before reading Saltz’s thoughts.

For more about Eliasson’s Waterfalls, including how to get there, follow the New York Times link.  

For the Waterfalls at night, visit Flickr photographer Amazin’ Jane