It is the rare painting, photograph or sculpture that can feel truly “immersive.” As striking and engulfing as they may be, they hardly surround the viewer and bombard their every sense. That is what installations, like Dead Horse Bay by Marcus Manganni, are for.
The piece currently installed at Channel to Channel until August 24 involves video, sound and large-scale sculpture to transport visitors from the gallery to a new place in the way that other visual art simply cannot. The name of the installation evokes that place (at least its inspiration) — a small body of water between two inlets in Brooklyn with history as a manufacturing site for fertilizer made of dead animals.
“Referring to the enchanting yet extremely polluted water body in the Brooklyn Rockaways, Dead Horse Bay contains interactive media projections that visually explore the site and its eerie history,” according to Channel to Channel. “Once home to horse rendering plants, the beach became a landfill in the 1930s and continues to leak trash into the ocean today.”
The installation certainly alludes to the darker side of the bay’s history, but also conveys the tranquility of its setting through recorded ambient birdsong and the large silk screens on which visuals are projected.
“The walk to Dead Horse Bay leads through the beautifully green and isolating Millstone trail,” Manganni explained, per an artist’s statement from the gallery. “Unconsciously, I began visually identifying objects — birds flying, bees pollinating flowers and, in the distance, the Gil Hodges Bridge. The further I walked, the more hyper-focused I was of the details — the colors became more saturated, the sounds grew louder — it was a more heightened sense of vision.”
The real power of Dead Horse Bay is the transference of feeling, the chance for the artist to make viewers feel a certain way from head to toe. At Channel to Channel, Manganni has been able to convey and elaborate on the real feeling he got from the installation’s namesake.
“Through the use of media projection, Dead Horse Bay explores this heightened visual sense,” Manganni said. “The walk through the trail is projected onto silk sheers. The physical qualities of the sheers contrast and play with the projected visual information. The forest can seem liquid at times as the the silk ripples and reacts with the viewers movement through the space. Through the silk trail, two massive beach roses intentionally replace the bay as the destination.”
In the universal way that visual art transcends its subject and in the unique way that installation encompasses those subjects, Dead Horse Bay won’t transport you to Brooklyn, but rather to the artist’s personal, heightened experience there.
Manganni is based in Brooklyn and is the sculptor behind Bending Normal and Special Housing Unit, which are installed outside of Wedgewood-Houston’s Packing Plant galleries and studio. He was featured in the 2019 Young Collectors Contemporary at Crosstown Arts in Memphis and in the Museum of Contemporary Art Nashville’s 2018 pop-up show.
Channel to Channel is located at 507 Hagan Street in We-Ho.