Stone and water are the obvious conjoined themes of Pierre Huyghe’s untitled takeover of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Roof Garden this summer.
At first glance, it looks like disarray. Tiles all over the rooftop have been pried up, revealing dirt and puddles of rainwater. But a moment’s thought tells any viewer that dirt there, inside the architecture of the building, is deliberate, and the rainwater part of the purpose.
Between the uprooted paving tiles are elements of interested. A boulder of Manhattan Schist lurks, the same material bearing the weight of most of the city’s famous skyscrapers. In a blue-tinted glass tank of water, another boulder, this one of cooled lava, improbably floats, its upper curve jutting through the glass. Below the floating boulder a mound of sand mirrors its curve, and the tank is populated by two prehistoric species: tiny lampreys and bright orange tadpole shrimp.
Like the floating rock and sunken sand, the tank itself makes a sharp metaphor with its contents. Periodically, computer-controlled liquid inside the panes of glass turns opaque white. Technology so advanced as to be invisible set in direct juxtaposition with species of life thought not to have evolved in millions of years.
So while the work can be described as New York Times reviewer Ken Johnson did as “an intriguing but dry, cerebrally puzzling and disconnected affair,” it is a study of contrasts. Water and stone. Artifice and nature. Time and decay. In the instance of that last description, Huyghe (pronounced hweeg) meant that the water pooled in the rectangular boxes of dirt under the removed paving tiles seem to have leaked from the aquarium, but it is actually circulating in an entirely separate system. Too, any dirt, dust, and flakes that came off the boulder of Manhattan schist in removal and transit have been left piled around the boulder.
The Roof Garden Commission: Pierre Huyghe runs through November 1st, 2015.