John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It makes it look like you're chin-deep in water.
Many people would undoubtedly like to forget the dark days of Superstorm Sandy. But New York designer Joe Doucet would prefer we hold tight to the painful memories, and has forged a way to do so with this mournful, minimalist mirror inspired by the monumentally destructive tempest.
"Fathom" is a wall-hanging circle sliced into perfect halves by a horizontal line. The top half is a gray-looking mirror – like the leaden skies right before or after a storm – while the bottom is colored deep blue. The simple presentation is deceptive, for Doucet has done something tricky with the mirror to give it a surprise. Anybody gazing into it will find a visual disconnect in their body wherever it crosses the blue-gray line, just like what you see when looking down into water. The effect is that the viewer is sunk up to the chin in a virtual sea (unless they happen to be short-statured, in which case they'll simply look like Smurfs).
Doucet created "Fathom" as a commentary on "how quickly one forgets about events of such devastation," he writes. The artwork is going up for bidding this week at the Reclaim NYC design event, staged to coincide with the NYC Design Week. All proceeds go to the Brooklyn recovery fund, which so far has raised more than $2 million for folks smacked by Sandy's history-making fury.
I asked Doucet to talk a bit about this unusual home accessory, and here's what he had to say:
Where'd you get the idea for this project?
I was asked by Jean Lin and Jennifer Krichels to design a piece to auction with proceeds going to The Brooklyn Recovery Fund which benefits the victims of Hurricane Sandy. I began thinking of how quickly we forget about events which have a devastating impact when we are not confronted with them each day. I wanted, in some way, to create a reminder. An object which visually puts you in the scenario seemed to me like an elegant way of doing that.
Was this the first thing to come to mind, or had you conceived of other Sandy-related artworks, also?
Actually this was my second piece to be auctioned to benefit victims of Sandy. For the first project I was asked to create a piece using reclaimed materials. Like most people in the path, the first thing I did was to stock up on water. The irony that an abundance of water became the problem was not lost on me. I cast my leftover bottles in solid acrylic in ever deepening hues to signify the escalation of a crisis:
What do you hope people will think about when they look into the mirror?
There is a sense of delight in seeing yourself neck deep in water while clearly standing in a room. Then I hope they will remember there were a great many people for whom this was a daily reality.
Is there meant to be a grim undercurrent to this mirror, considering Sandy's destruction? Or did you mean it to convey other emotions -- calm reflectiveness, perhaps?
The effect the mirror crates is quite otherworldly and beautiful. It is an object for auction to raise money and I didn't want the eventual owner, who gave to others, to be left with something grim. I did want to do something striking, however, in the hopes that visitors to their home might become intrigued with the effect and ask about it, thereby, bringing up the topic of Sandy again and again. If one more person becomes involved in relief efforts because of that, I feel the piece would be a success.
Images by Joe Doucet via Designboom