Walk on Water: 13 Interactive Aquatic Art Installations

Vital yet dangerous, shifting its shape and obscuring what lies beneath, water is an ideal conduit for illusion, and artists take advantage of these qualities to produce works that confuse our senses and seem to give us superpowers. These aquatic art installations allow people to walk on water and breathe beneath its surface, and ask us to confront its mysteries, navigating flooded spaces in pitch blackness or edging dangerous whirlpools.

Floating Piers on Italy’s Lake Iseo by Christo and Jeanne Claude

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A modular floating dock system comprised of 220,000 polyethylene cubes will allow visitors to walk all the way to an island from the shore of Italy’s Lake Iseo. The first work by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Italy in over 40 years, ‘The Floating Piers’ are still under construction and will ultimately be covered in a shimmering yellow fabric that will continue for a mile on land through the pedestrian streets. In the works for decades, it’s Christo’s first piece to be completed since the death of his partner Jeanne-Claude in 2005. The exhibition will be in place for 16 days and then all components will be industrially recycled. “Like all of our projects, ‘The Floating Piers’ is absolutely free and accessible 24 hours a day, weather permitting,” says Christo. “There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.”

Intentionally Unstable Floating Pavilion

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Just barely peeking above the surface of the sea in a few strategic places, this sunken pavilion lets you walk right out onto the water, with dry paths appearing and disappearing according to the movement of the waves. ‘Thematic Pavilion’ gently rocks back and forth as visitors move from the top level to the nautical exhibition space below the surface. Hydraulics of the same sort used for submarines keep the structure from sinking to the bottom, and raise it all the way up after the exhibition so it can be used like an ordinary boat.

Glass Topped Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich

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Glimpsed through the surface of a swimming pool, groups of people standing on the bottom seem irrationally calm – not to mention dry. That’s because a thin sheet of glass actually separates them from the extremely shallow water, creating the illusion that they’re submerged. Artist Leandro Erlich uses perspective, mirrors and glass to create optical illusions that shake our sense of what’s up and what’s down.

Boat Tour Through a Flooded Art Museum

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Visitors to the Palais de Tokyo have to navigate dark waters inside the museum itself, as if in a post-apocalyptic scenario, for this installation by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot. ACQUAALTA takes its name from the annual flooding event in Venice, imagining what would happen if this same flooding were to affect Paris. Standing or sitting in their boats, visitors row through the nearly pitch-black space before disembarking onto jagged foam landscapes.