About the Project
Weekends May 7 through June 19, 2016, Creative Time and the Brooklyn Navy Yard presented Fly By Night, artist Duke Riley’s public artwork of unprecedented scale and beauty. Fly By Night is Riley’s largest project to date.
Friday through Sunday evenings at dusk, a massive flock of pigeons elegantly twirled, swooped, and glided above the East River, as Riley orchestrated a series of performances occurring regularly throughout late spring. At the call of a whistle, thousands of birds emerged from their home in a grand, converted historic boat docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The pigeons circled above the river as the sun sets over Manhattan, and small leg bands, historically used to carry messages, were replaced with tiny LED lights, illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature.
Fly By Night paid homage to pigeon keeping, both in New York and farther afield. Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years and kept by people around the world for their companionship, sport, and service. Locally, each neighborhood in New York once had a community of pigeon keepers (or fanciers, as they are commonly known); a dense network of rooftop pigeon lofts stretched across the five boroughs. While property development and population shifts have caused the practice to wane, Fly By Night reflected back on and made visible this largely forgotten culture. The iconic Brooklyn Navy Yard, once home to the country’s largest naval fleet of pigeon carriers, was the ideal setting for Riley’s Fly By Night–a tribute to the beautiful, diverse and fascinating histories of pigeon flying and New York City.
Video by Olivia Loomis Merrion, Leonhardt Cassullo Video Fellow