When Hurricane Sandy flooded Lower Manhattan in 2012, it killed dozens, destroyed 250,000 vehicles, and caused $19 billion in damage. In the aftermath, it seemed like maybe, just maybe, the U.S. was finally ready to take the realities of global warming and rising oceans to heart. Yet while the city came up with an ambitious plan of protective levees and green space dubbed Big U, or, the Dryline, it’s still just a plan. Nothing is built. Another Sandy could happen tomorrow.
In response, Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde set up his dramatic, touring installation, Waterlicht, outside the United Nations’ headquarters in New York for World Water Day on March 22.
Waterlicht, or “water light,” is an immersive, cobalt blue flood that’s rendered in light. A combination of LEDs, software, and focusing lenses create a poetic scene intended to mimic the damaging waters of Sandy–which in some areas of the city rose as high as 18 feet. Here’s a clip from an earlier rendition of Waterlicht during its one-night tour of Amsterdam:
“I want people to experience the wonder but also the risks of water on a physical level, creating an experience you cannot download,” says Rossegaarde. “Waterlicht New York confronts us with a future landscape, and a new reality If we do not invest in ideas and innovation to combat climate change.”
From the looks of it, Waterlicht was beautiful to behold, despite simulating the inundation of its audience. I imagine the juxtaposition of serenity and horror would create mixed emotions in anyone, let alone those who lived through the devastation of Sandy itself. Then again, that seems to be precisely the point.