In Red Hook, Brooklyn, it’s impossible not to be conscious of the extreme proximity of the sea. The salty air wafting through its streets, the low-lying marine geography, and relative isolation were all part of the draw for contemporary residents and the reason for its historical role as a hub of maritime commerce. These elements also conspired with the awful arbitrariness of nature to render Red Hook a disaster area when Hurricane Sandy hit. Rebuilding efforts were slow and painful, and the memory of what the water had done lingered.
Now, on the fifth anniversary of the storm, artist Katherine Behar draws on the accumulated memories the water might hold in “Maritime Messaging: Red Hook,” produced in collaboration with PortSide New York and Pioneer Works. The performance work takes place on ferries shuttling between Wall Street and Red Hook, which Behar has rigged with an AI app that sends messages into the water and then translates its sounds — waves, splashes — creating a mysterious, evocative “dialogue.” A sound installation aboard the Mary A. Whalen ferry accompanies the performance.