August is normally a barren wasteland of shuttered galleries on summer vacation, but the North Brooklyn art scene has been reinvigorated by a powerful experiential exhibition ripped from the global headlines.
Dublin-based artist Brian Duggan’s site-specific installation We like it up here, it’s windy, really nice at East Williamsburg’s International Studio & Curatorial Program, where he’s currently a resident, offers a glimpse into the shocking crowd control techniques on the trains in Indonesia.
Duggan was “shocked and amazed” when he read about a 2012 initiative by the state-owned railway company, PT Kereta Api, to control the amount of passengers that ride on the train roofs due to overcrowding by hanging large medieval-looking concrete balls above the train lines to knock them off.
The project takes its name from a news item in which an Indonesian shopkeeper explained, “They’ve tried everything to keep us from riding … in the end we always win. We like it up there, it’s windy, really nice.”
Reading the quote gave Duggan an opening to look at the vicious crowd control techniques through a more personal angle. “It was a pocket of resistance and quite poetic,” he says. “It was the kick-starter for me.”
In the gallery space of the ISCP, Duggan’s installation mirrors the experience of riding on the roof of a train via a curved wooden platform where viewers can walk under the concrete crowd-control contraptions hanging overhead. Fans placed around the space allow them to experience both the strong wind and the noise flowing over the top of the train. “With the fans going and the noise, it becomes a bit oppressive,” Duggan observes. “The riders may like it up there but it is a really dangerous place to be.”
In addition to the simulated train roof, Duggan projects footage of the overcrowding on the Indonesian trains around the periphery of the ISCP gallery space, as well as an unexpected video of New York subway trains going over the Manhattan Bridge with background noise culled from the streets of Jakarta.
By placing viewers directly into the sensory experiences of people across the world, Duggan’s installation allows for a more personal, empathetic relation to a story culled from news organizations. “That’s the power of art,” he explains. “You can understand things in a different way. You can propose ideas, you can investigate things and you can ask questions. I’m not the BBC, I’m not CNN, I’m not trying to do an objective report, but I’m trying to do something else. That’s what’s really interesting to me as an artist: you can understand people’s stories, step into their shoes or look at a situation and how it comes to be.”
“We like it up here, it’s windy, really nice,” through Aug. 23 at ISCP, 1040 Metropolitan Ave.; (718) 387-2900