Show boat: Colorful craft ready to hit the waves - Brooklyn Paper

Show boat: Colorful craft ready to hit the waves

Water works: The “Flow Separation” art exhibit in Brooklyn Bridge Park is also a fully functional historic fireboat.
Nicholas Knight

It’s sure to dazzle!

A fireboat painted in crimson camouflage is currently floating off of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier Six, and it will begin taking visitors on short trips along the East River this weekend. From July 13 to Aug. 12, Brooklynites will be able to ride a floating piece of art and history titled “Flow Separation.”

Artist Taura Auerbach coated the ship in a “razzle dazzle” pattern, a type of colorful camouflage used by the British during World War I, intended to confuse the enemy about a ship’s position or speed, instead of hiding it completely. Auerbach said that using the bright red and white of the fireboat’s original paint job not only honors its history, but also emphasizes the flashy cleverness of the pattern designers.

“The palette also exaggerates that ‘dazzle’ was more about confusing and outsmarting, than about hiding,” Auerbach said. “I like those instances when cleverness is an antidote to brute force.”

The project is a blend of art and history, said a curator at the Public Art Fund, which sponsored the art piece in partnership with 14–18 Now, a British organization dedicated to World War I education.

“The origin of dazzle itself is connected to an art historical discourse, paying homage to early European avant-garde movements,” said Emma Enderby. “ ‘Flow Separation’ connects a New York audience back to this little known history by literally exploring the concepts and technique behind dazzle.”

Visitors can view the vessel from land at any time, and may step aboard on Saturdays from noon to 4 pm, and on Sundays from 3 pm to 7 pm. Brooklynites can also sign up for free, hour-long trips on the colorful craft, on Saturdays at 4:30 pm and 6 pm; and on Sundays at noon and 1:30 pm. The trips are first-come, first-served, and can be reserved at www.publicartfund.org, although many of the trips have already sold out.

After Aug. 12, the boat will move to Hudson Park on the distant isle of Manhattan for the rest of the summer.

In a past life, the vessel was the fireboat “John J. Harvey,” first launched in 1931. The ship served New York Harbor until it was decommissioned in 1994, and gained national attention Sept. 11, 2001 when it helped to rescue people from lower Manhattan. After the exhibition, the ship will be restored to its original, historic paint job.

“Flow Separation” at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier Six (Atlantic Avenue at Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights, www.publicartfund.org). On display through Aug 12. Free.

A piece of history: The pattern is based off of “dazzle” camouflage, a technique used in World War I.
Nicholas Knight

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