I’ve had a few heated driving-down-the-BQE and/or West Side Highway conversations about Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls. You know, those giant fake waterfalls installed in the rivers around NYC, pumping windy white water out of giant scaffolding.
No one likes them. At least none of the people I ride in cars with. The main complaints are that they’re too small, they’re too thin, they’re too wasteful, they’re too boring, “I don’t like the number four,” or they’re too “generally dumb.” I think they’re cool, but not in the way that they might have been, or in the mystical, magical way this picture and others suggested they would be. Instead, I think it’s cool that they’re sparking people to fight or talk calmly about how much the Waterfalls do or don’t suck. Kind of like the Gates. I like the idea that people are talking about art, figuring it out as they talk it over. One obvious drawback, though, is that the Waterfalls are generally understood to be coolest at dusk, which is also about 15 minutes before they’re turned off.
Part of this stems from when I used to work for this guy called Sidewalk Sam, who does gorgeous chalk paintings on the sidewalks, mostly in and around Boston. His idea is that it’s important to get art out of museums and into the regular world so everyone can appreciate it, and so it beautifies the regular world, regardless of how impermanent it is. And I think this is true.