Tauba Auerbach, Flow Separation
169 backers pledged $21,095 to support this project on Kickstarter.
During World War I, British painter Norman Wilkinson devised a camouflage strategy to “dazzle” thousands of ships, covering them in abstract designs that would distort the boat’s location, direction, and speed on enemy radar. To commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the end of the war, Public Art Fund, 14-18 NOW, and 169 backers joined forces to commission the last in a series of five dazzled ships. The artist: Tauba Auerbach, whose work investigates geometries, mathematics, and fluid dynamics. The canvas: the fireboat John J. Harvey, which served New York City from 1931 to 1994, then historically pumped water for 80 hours on September 11, 2001.
“Dazzle is more about outsmarting than it is evading,” Auerbach notes. To realize her take on dazzle camouflage, a mostly female crew stripped the boat’s 80+ years of old paint, then applied a red and white pattern designed to reflect the motion of water as it comes into contact with moving objects. The boat launched in the New York Harbor on July 3, 2018, taking Kickstarter backers and the public on free rides throughout the summer. The boat will be restored to its original color scheme in 2019.