Sailing Life Rafts into Brooklyn’s Submerged Motherlands

The tree touches the top of the Cantor Gallery. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

The tree touches the top of the Cantor Gallery. Photos: Brooklyn Museum

The view is dramatic, but the story is it evokes is even bigger than what’s in the room. There’s still time to travel out to the Brooklyn Museum to have the immersive experience of Swoon’s Submerged Motherlands, closing August 24.

The pictures here just don’t do justice to the super-high wrap-around effect of this walk-through take on the emotional side of rising tides throughout the world. A photo can’t take it all in — a sheltering, 60-foot tree with cut-out paper leaves with some day-after-the-Flood rafts parked down below, all decorated with sketches of the peoples and mothers of the world.

And did we mention that Brooklyn visionary Callie Curry (a.k.a. Swoon) actually built and lived on those rafts for a while? Several years ago, she sailed them up and down the Hudson, on the Mississippi, and across the Adriatic.

Close-up of one of Callie’s rafts. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

Close-up of one of Callie’s rafts.

You’ll get to see these jerry-rigged but seaworthy concoctions up close, and examine the drawings, cut paper, and torn, coffee-stained textiles draping walls, floor, and shelters in this dramatic space.

The feeling it evokes makes you wonder if we’re ready for rising seas and climate change. It’s beautiful, monumental, and reminiscent of our recent lights-out experience of Hurricane Sandy, which tore at the edges of Brooklyn, Long Island, and Staten Island just two years ago – exactly what inspired Callie to take this work in this direction.

Hear what it took for Callie to create this fantastic walk-through installation on Brooklyn’s top floor:


You may also want to hear what Callie has to say about being a working artist in the real world – outside the four walls of a gallery – in her talk from TEDxBrooklyn in 2010. She will show you her rafts in action at Minute 5 and tell you what it felt like to arrive on a hand-built raft in Venice, her projects in post-earthquake Haiti, and interacting with people from the neighborhood as she creates art on the sides of Brooklyn buildings. Truly inspirational.

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