“Moving Chains” by Artist Charles Gaines in collaboration with TOLO Architecture
Moving Chains is a monumental 110-foot long kinetic sculpture built from steel and sustainably harvested Sapele, commonly referred to as African Mahogany, a tree native to West Africa. Created by Charles Gaines with collaborating architects TOLO Architecture, the sculpture, which people may enter and walk through, contains nine custom made chains weighing over 1,600 pounds each running its length overhead. Eight of the chains are representative of the pace of the currents in New York Harbor, while a ninth central chain moves more quickly, recalling the pace of ship and barge traffic that has traveled the city’s waterways for centuries. The overall effect of the weight and motion of the chains produces a rhythmic, undulating loop, evocative of the sounds of New York Harbor at the entrance to the Hudson River, known to the area’s Indigenous residents the Lenape as Mahicantuck, the river that runs two ways. Starting during the Dutch and British occupations, this waterway near present-day lower Manhattan would become an economic pillar of the transatlantic slave trade and seed the system of racial capitalism foundational to the United States. Facing the Statue of Liberty — an international symbol of benevolence and human rights, distinguished by the abolitionist iconography of a broken shackle and chain at her right foot—Moving Chains calls attention to the nation’s economic, judicial, and political frameworks that continue the legacy of slavery today.
Photographs by Timothy Schenk
Video by TOLO Architecture
Governor's Island Project
Charles Gaines’ Moving Chains, a collaboration with TOLO Architecture,
is commissioned by Creative Time and Governors Island Arts.
Artist: Charles Gaines, Charles Gaines Studio
Architect Collaborator: TOLO Architecture. Team: Peter Tolkin, Trenman Yau, Sarah Lorenzen, Brittany Jones
Engineering and mechanical design: AOA. Team: Jose Romagoza, Karl Nettmann, Paul Bailey, Jena Dolinar
Installation and build: Torsilieri & Sons. Team: Dean and George Torsilieri
Sound engineering: Arup. Team: Willem Boning
Woodwork and metalwork: Stronghold Industries. Team: Chris Hall.
Others: DucWorks, Utah; Horizon Welding, Nevada; Performance Tube Bending, California; Rozell Industries, New York; and Powerhouse Arts, Brooklyn.
NY Times Review: "On Governors Island, a Machine That Jolts History" by Siddhartha Mitter (October 7, 2022)
Artnet Review: "It Took Eight Years, an Army of Engineers, and 1,600 Pounds of Chains to Bring Artist Charles Gaines’s Profound Meditation on America to Life. Now, It’s Here" by Sarah Cascone (October 25, 2022)
Colossal: "Through a Monumental Sculpture of Moving Chains, Artist Charles Gaines Confronts the Enduring Legacy of American Slavery"
by Grace Ebert (October 25, 2022)