WET EXIT, 2011
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY
Public art project presented by Smack Mellon and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
My Role: Curator / Produced multimedia event and managed logistics of live outdoor performance.
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Biggs merges the fierce athleticism of battling kayaks with pounding drum beats and the siren-like lament of a violin, cello and vocalist. Taking its title from the term used to describe an emergency exit from a capsized kayak, WET EXIT looks at loss, desire, chaos and control in the face of extreme situations. Musicians and kayak polo players perform against the backdrop of lower Manhattan’s post 9/11 skyline while the audience watches from amphitheater seating at The Cove Between the Bridges in the Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Projected video images from Biggs’ recent expedition to film kayaks in the Arctic are combined with live synchronized kayaks as they define a dance of survival strategies. In the struggle to maintain control amongst the fraying fabric of a society in peril, known patterns are repeated and individuals search for second chances.
The piece opens with lights searching the night sky and a lone violinist playing on the shore. The chords he plays mimic the sound of an air raid siren. Video images from the Arctic appear on a large-scale screen. Lights come up on four kayaks and a drummer poised behind his drums out in the water. The drummer and his kit float on a boat anchored off shore. The kayaks perform a series of synchronized movements to the strains of a waltz. A train speeds across the Manhattan Bridge. Its deafening sound sends the drummer, violinist, cellist, and vocalist into a frenzied performance as the ballet-like movements of the kayaks becomes a battle of spins and speed.
Janet Biggs is known primarily for her work in video, photography and performance. She lives and works in New York City. She has captured such events as speeding motorcycles on the Bonneville Salt Flats, horses galloping on treadmills, Olympic synchronized swimmers in their attempts to defy gravity, and kayaks performing a synchronized ballet in Arctic waters.
She received her undergraduate degree from Moore College of Art, and pursued graduate studies at Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been exhibited, among other institutions, at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; Gibbes Museum of Art, South Carolina; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; Kunst Museum Bonn; MACRO (Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma); Vantaa Art Museum, Finland; Linkopings Konsthall, Passagen, Sweden; Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum, Austria; and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Australia.
Reviews of her work have appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Artforum, ARTNews, Art in America, Flash Art, Artnet.com, and many others.
Biggs is the recipient of numerous grants including the Electronic Media and Film Program at the New York State Council on the Arts Award, the Arctic Circle Fellowship/Residency, Art Matters, Inc., the Wexner Center Media Arts Program Residency, the Anonymous Was a Woman Award, and the NEA Fellowship Award. Her work is in public collections including the High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina; Gibbes Museum of Art, South Carolina; and the New Britain Museum of Art, Connecticut.
Janet Biggs is represented by Conner Contemporary Art, Washington, DC, and Winkleman Gallery, New York City.
More info about the exhibition on Smack Mellon website.
Image courtesy of the artist and Smack Mellon. Photo by Etienne Frossard.