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LE MILIEU DU MONDE:
THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD
By Werner Klotz
2004


A permanent multimedia installation on board the three new Staten Island Ferries
Commissioned by The Percent for Art Program of the Department of Cultural affairs in conjunction with The Department of Transportation:

THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD
Located on the bridge deck of each of the three new Staten Island ferries The Middle of the World is a multimedia installation that provides passengers with a unique experience with every crossing. Steered by the ferry’s GPS navigation system, the installation uses sound, video, light and mechanics to explore the nautical and geographical theme of wayfaring in a time-based and site specific manner.

AN UNSEEN DIMENSION OF THE EVERYDAY: THE SONAR PORTAL
The video component of the installation, located on the aft rotunda, utilizes the site specificity of the live GPS link to steer what is in essence a live-action virtual map of the undersea floor directly beneath the ferry. With imagery compiled specifically for this artwork utilizing Side Scanning Sonar technology, the Sonar Portal gives passengers a real time glimpse of the undersea floor between Staten Island and Manhattan.
The video component of the work is housed in a viewing portal of highly polished stainless steel inspired by nautical instruments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A series of mirrors inside the portal further refract and extend the moving image, pushing it outwards to the portals edge. This sensation of looking downward into a luminescent image of an otherwise hidden world is further emphasized by the presence of large panels of highly polished stainless steel on the starboard and port walls of the space. As many people can view the installation at once, these panels serve as mirrors providing the passengers with an image of themselves among one another emphasizing the collective nature of this unique perceptive experience. (over)

WAYFARING: THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF LIGHT AND MOTION
The mechanical and light driven components of the installation located on the fore rotunda play on the relativity of the Middle in a constantly moving world.
The Centerpiece on the second rotunda is an exquisitely crafted stainless steel “World Portal” who’s liquid motion echoes that of the ferry’s movement over the water via by a delicate system of counterweights. It’s central feature, a ball of stainless steel engraved with the constellations appearing over the harbor, seems to float upon a set of ever shifting glass plates engraved with names from man’s great ages of exploration. The bottommost floating plate of the world portal, visible below the glass, is a prismatic engraving upon stainless steel of the compass rose; a classic nautical motif. On either side of the rotunda are three opposing stainless steel walls, each with a separate but interrelated theme. The port panel bears cities around the globe which share a common latitude with Staten Island while the starboard panel highlights cities with a common longitude. The third is a map of the world, also engraved in stainless steel, with Staten Island situated at the center.
Located above this world portal a blue light floods the space, fading and intensifying through a series of permutations set by the relative coordinates of the ferry’s GPS system. The light begins faintly upon leaving shore, reaching maximum intensity at the midpoint of the passage, then fades again as the ferry reaches the opposite shore,

PASSAGES: 101 FRAGMENTS FROM THE SEA
At the midpoint of every voyage, activated from a cue from the ferry’s GPS array, passengers seated on the bridge deck fore of the Sonar Portal will hear a short, recorded text selected for it’s capacity to tell some fragment of man’s ongoing relationship with the sea. The order in which the texts are played is controlled by computer which randomizes the order of presentation in relation to the ferry’s daily passages, ensuring a different listening experience from day to day. Sources range from antiquity to modernity and are drawn from such diverse areas as nautical lore, history, myth, poetry, literature, philosophy and science. With special attention given the role of New York Harbor in history and song, the selections move outward into selections that identify humanity’s empathy with the sea as something common to all cultures and times; in the words of Walt Whitman, “a pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o’er all brave sailors, All seas, all ships.”

Above the listening area is a photographic mural composed of over 800 video stills of water and light imagery captured with a special camera and arranged mathematically to reveal a complex geometric pattern within the delicate phenomenon of reflection and refraction.

THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD, a multimedia installation by Werner Klotz, was created in cooperation with George C. Sharp, Architects and installed at Marinette Marine, Marinette Wisconsin. It was commissioned by the Percent for Art program of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Transportation, New York City.WERNER KLOTZ is a sculptor and installation artist working in the field of Public Art. He lives in New York City.

text by John Stroud