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Spencer Finch

The River That Flows Both Ways

The art exhibit by Spencer Finch, “The River That Flows Both Ways,” is one of my favorite parts of the High Line and today I discovered something I hadn’t noticed before. Again, I thank the camera, which caught something my eyes didn’t see on their own: the reflection of the building just opposite the colored glass windows.

One of the things I love about the High Line is the multitude of windows you see while walking along, everything from cracked, bricked-up windows with bullet-holes on old industrial buildings to the undulating curves of the IAC building. And in the Standard Hotel there’s a “window” cut in the eastern footing of the building that looks onto other windows: Windows on windows. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the reflection of yet more windows in Spencer Fitch’s exhibit.

Another thing I admire about “The River That Flows Both Ways” is the fact that every time I photograph it it looks different. Just like the river itself it can’t be nailed down. It keeps changing depending on how the light is falling, where you’re standing, what time of day it is, what season of year, and what the weather is like.  I find the changeableness of this exhibit oddly comforting because it’s so perfectly reliable.

The Algonkins, the people who first settled in New York Harbor, named what we now call the Hudson (after the English sea captain) “the river that flows both ways.” They were stunned when they first saw it, a river with currents that flow north and south at the same time. You can see it yourself; just stand on a pier or lean up against a railing along the Greenway. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else; it’s just fascinating and confounding.

That’s what Spencer Finch’s exhibit captures: the movement and changing patterns of this great river. You can read about his project here, and see a photo that looks nothing like mine.  I hope the High Line folks make this wonderful exhibit a permanent feature of the park.

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