[A Percent for Art proposal for Riker's Island — presented in July 2014.]
The Simple Machines are fundamental tools devised by humans to direct and multiply the possibilities of our efforts and influence. They solve problems, increase productivity, construct complex structures, and combine to create more sophisticated tools. Universally intelligible as tangible objects, the Simple Machines also reference the individual and the allegorical.
In this latter sense, at the site on Riker’s Island, the Simple Machines speak to the pressures and balances in the lives of staff, visitors, and inmates alike. Galileo discovered that a simple machine does not create energy, but transforms it. As embodiments of agency, empowerment, work, and accomplishment the Simple Machines directly address the conceptual challenges of the site and its unique viewership.
For this project, the six classical Simple Machines will be produced at a monumental scale in white sand granite. Grand in scope and timeless in effect, the Simple Machines can be grasped from a distance and are visible from both the bridge approach and all key vantage points. At the site itself, pleasant and practical Thymus ground cover and existing London Plane trees create a low-maintenance site for brief respite and contemplation.