Friday through Sunday evenings at dusk, a massive flock of pigeons will elegantly twirl, swoop, and glide above the East River, as Riley orchestrates a series of performances occurring regularly throughout late spring. At the call of a whistle, thousands of birds will emerge from their home in a grand, converted historic boat docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The pigeons will circle above the river as the sun sets over Manhattan, and small leg bands, historically used to carry messages, will be replaced with tiny LED lights, illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature.
His past projects, as Gothamist reports, are equally insane:
In 2007, for example, he spent months building a small, wooden, one-man submarine that he modeled on America’s first sub: an oaken, spherical contraption called the Turtle, which bobbed about New York Harbor in search of British prey during the Revolutionary War. Riley and his craft, dubbed the Acorn, made it to within a few hundred yards of the Queen Mary 2 before the NYPD and the Coast Guard impounded the vessel and issued a handful of citations to its shirtless captain.
Then there was the memorably damp night in 2009 when Riley and a few hundred toga-clad friends and volunteers formed teams representing four New York museums and staged a mock, Roman-themed “naval battle”—with tomatoes as projectiles—in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park reflecting pool. That event’s title: “Those About to Die Salute You.”
Or his 2013 project, “Trading With the Enemy,” for which Riley trained a flock of homing pigeons—half of them “smugglers,” the other half “documentarians”—to fly from Havana to Key West, the former carrying tiny Cuban cigars to the States while the latter were outfitted with cameras to record the flock’s journey.