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‘Big Art’ Takes Over Liberty Science Center, Amplifying The Importance Of Interdisciplinary Exploration

Dustin Yellin ‘The Politics of Eternity’ (2019) First exhibited at LSC, 2023. Photo: Gus Powell / … [+] Liberty Science Center.

© 2023 by Gus Powell

Weighing 10,000 pounds, or about as much as the southern elephant seal, the world’s largest carnivore, we confront a chevron-shaped heptaptych, gazing closely and curiously at its contents.

The seven-part polyptych consists of three-dimensional mixed media collage embedded into individual laminated glass steles and is presented as three narrative acts. The first welcomes us into an imaginary community assembled around a totem, which reappears in the third act, which invites us into a futuristic society focused on a rocketship. These first and third acts soar from each side of the chevron, bookending lower panels which convey modernity where tall ships and supertankers navigate cascading waterfalls.

Dustin Yellin Detail of ‘The Politics of Eternity’ (2019) First exhibited at LSC, 2023.

Courtesy: the artist.

Dustin Yellin’s phantasmagorical allegory, The Politics of Eternity (2019), made its debut on April 1 at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., as part of the spectacular launch of the Big Art initiative, a new arts program showcasing two stunning, massive installations that broaden our perspective and underscore the intrinsic bond between arts and sciences that’s quickly eroding in our educational and social systems.

“I think we’re moving into a very strange time with technology. And I think that things are becoming more and more specialized and more and more siloed, which I think is getting us farther and farther away from truth. We really need to build a new house of being where all of these different ideas can come together and influence each other,” the Brooklyn-based artist and Pioneer Works founder told me during a festive reception to celebrate the arts program and inaugural installations.

It had been years since my family visited Liberty Science Center (LSC), some four miles from our apartment in Manhattan, yet a world away. When my son Michael was in elementary school, it was a haven where some of his favorite PBS KIDS TV series came to life, and science was accessible and interactive in an environment that also stimulated adults. About to turn 13, Michael and his best friend Misha, discovered a wholly new appreciation for Liberty Science Center, as the native Manhattanites wandered off on their own and engaged with The Politics of Eternity and another inaugural installation by globally-renowned Argentine conceptual artist Leandro Erlich.

“I’ve been here for 12 years, and to celebrate our 30th anniversary, I really wanted to start big art programming. So now it’s what you see when you first walk into the Center. That’s how committed we are to this,” LSC President and CEO Paul Hoffman told me.

Leandro Erlich ‘The Building’ (2023) Photo: Gus Powell / Liberty Science Center.

© 2023 by Gus Powell

Erlich’s The Building builds on LSC’s embrace of interaction as a teaching tool, exciting folks of all ages as the installation was opened and guests climbed and dangled from fire escapes, as urban fantasy came alive. The first site-specific installment of Erlich’s acclaimed Bâtiment (Building) series inspired by an American city drew gasps and giggles from the first crowd to experience it.

Bridging large-scale art and physics, Erlich constructed a model of a building on the ground, encouraging “spect-actors” to visualize themselves scaling the New York City brownstone, replete with fire escapes, window AC units, and a ground-floor deli.

“As Dustin mentioned, I am also a believer that this enables this kind of project where we are able to collaborate and create things beyond the boundaries of our specification of the boundaries of our practice,” Erlich said. “It leads us to believe (we can) do something new, it opens windows. .. I like the idea of not not taking things, not accepting things. Not given things, not taking things for granted, by believing in creating something new.”

Just as Yellin’s totem and Erlich’s edifice mirror each other, so do the fundamentals of art and science, which are too often separated, divorcing our minds and our hearts from the creative possibility necessary to effect any profound social change. Such art elevates the human condition, compelling us to keep the aesthetic in constant dialogue with the scientific.

Since opening in 1993, in the shadow of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, LSC has become the most-visited interactive science learning center in the New York metro region. LSC has significantly expanded its offerings over the years, installing the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere in 2017, and currently building the 30-acre SciTech Scity innovation campus featuring a business creation hub, public STEM high school, and residential housing.

“We’re building an eight-storey business creation facility for companies that use science and technology to radically make the world a better place. And we’re going to build into it lots of public spaces that are free with our art installations,” said Hoffman.

Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, New Jersey.

Liberty Science Center

LSC is a must-see for everyone living in or visiting in the region, offering an unrivaled, immersive, interdisciplinary, dynamic experience for folks of all ages. It’s essential to simultaneously engage in arts and sciences, in order to progress, individually and collectively. LSC makes the connection apparent, accessible, and indispensable in the user experience.

Some 86 years ago, Albert Einstein warned about the wide-spread consequences caused by isolating these two guiding disciplines.

The German-born physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectric effect, opened his seminal 1937 essay on Moral Decay with these enduring words: “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

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