Nestled inside Brooklyn Bridge Park, overlooking the East River and the Lower Manhattan skyline, sits the New York City iteration of Connect, BTS, a global art project that says as much about BTS's mission and aesthetic preferences as it does the worldwide impact the seven-member Korean group has had on popular culture over the past seven years.
The final installation of Connect, BTS officially opens in New York on February 5. Titled "New York Clearing," the artwork from British sculptor Antony Gormley is a sort of living sculpture, referred to as a "drawing in space," that is made from 18 kilometers of aluminum curved and shaped into large coils, with no visible beginning or end. When attendees visit the site, they'll be able to stand inside the dynamic maze and become part of the work itself.
Commissioned by BTS and the project's art director Lee Daehyung, "New York Clearing" is a fitting metaphor for BTS, their ARMY of fans, and the ecosystem the group has created that transcends country and language. It's intentional that "Clearing" is described not so much as a static, traditional sculpture but as an "energy" field. As Gormley said in his opening remarks at the preview on February 4, "It's more of a verb than a noun. It's a field to be felt." The aluminum tubes move gently when touched. Gormley used the word "living."
"When you walk into this sculpture, [in] every direction, you’re the author of the landscape," Lee tells Teen Vogue. "We specifically liked this park because it’s the perfect combination of nature, between the park and water, and then Manhattan. Inside the sculpture, each direction is different. The audience can communicate, like, 'hey can you take a photo of us?' That interaction is important."
Interaction and community make up so much of what BTS has created since their debut in 2013, building a fictional, fantastical narrative that weaves through their music videos and matching it with a real-life focus on hope and support, on coming together and facing the "shadows" of life in some type of unity. The impact on ARMY is felt on social media, where group chats discussing the members and their work abound, and where new hashtags trend every day to celebrate Kim Namjoon, Kim Seokjin, Min Yoongi, Jung Hoseok, Park Jimin, Kim Taehyung, Jeon Jungkook, and their alter egos RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. "What an incredible thing that these seven guys, these musicians, they decided to make something that didn't need to happen, happen," Gormley told the small crowd gathered at the pier. "The art world can be quite internalized. [They] reaffirm that art is essentially everyone's, it's made to be shared."
Through that sharing, BTS's impact grows still larger, bigger than records broken on Billboard charts or awards given. It's an energy, moving and bending in a way that invites empathy and understanding, and challenges xenophobia and the histories and hatreds that divide. It's built upon music, upon art, which is able to move past boundaries and create connections between yourself and something greater.
"I’ve been a big fan of BTS for the past four years," Lee says. "'Be yourself.' 'Love yourself.' This is be yourself." He gestures to the structure behind him, the aluminum with no beginning and no end. “The power of the positive energies and the positive solidarity between ARMY and BTS and also between ARMY and ARMYs, and between ARMY and society, it’s only possible when you truly be yourself."
"New York Clearing" is open to the public at Brooklyn Bridge Park from February 5 through March 27, 2020. You can find out more details on the Connect, BTS website.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue