Public Sculpture, 2023
Mirage is a public sculpture in midtown Manhattan. In the form of a tourist binocular, the work presents the view over the East River in its actual size, while an embedded projector streams real-time video of the view of NYC seen from its west in Weehawken, New Jersey, presenting a layered view.
A mirage is a physical phenomenon where air of different densities causes a refraction of light. A common realization of this phenomenon lets ancient sailors, deep at sea, see buildings and landscapes that are much further away than they appear — leading to tales about mystical realms that can only be seen but never reached. Citizens of Manhattan will look across the water and see through the binoculars an unparalleled skyline, the ultimate representation of success and wealth. But unlike their ancestors, the modern sailors themselves live in the castles in the sky.
The area of Manhattan is 22.7 square miles in size, less than ten-millionth that of the area of Earth. But in many other metrics, it is much larger. It certainly feels larger to many people on it. Indeed, the city is so vast that when one looks east from its east end, one sees (as if all across the rest of the globe) its west end.
As the viewer in New York City sees New York City through the binoculars, the artwork becomes a mirror. “With brass as the mirror, one tidies one’s cloths; with history as the mirror, one sees the patterns of rise and fall; with people as the mirror, one understands the distinction between right and wrong” – Jiutangshu·Weizhengzhuan (“以铜为镜,可以正衣冠,以史为镜,可以知兴替,以人为镜,可以明得失” – 旧唐书·魏徵传) Mirror has always been associated with the notion of reflection. Indeed, New York City, with its unique collective personality, will not be told what to do. However, the city that never sleeps, the city that is always power-walking, the city that is too busy to care, is also the city that can do whatever it decides to do. The mirror forces a reflection. And it is in reflection lies the key to the betterment of the city.