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How would you describe the body of work that awarded you the PULSE Prize in 2007?

 In 2007 I built a one-manned wooden submarine based on the Revolutionary War era ‘Turtle’, which had attacked British ships in the harbor.  I launched ‘The Acorn’ into the New York harbor within a few yards of the Queen Mary 2 before being arrested and the sub confiscated.  Along with the submarine, which was exhibited at PULSE Art Fair in 2007, I produced a body of work including large scale drawings, mosaics and objects reacting to the political climate at the time, through the lens of the historical events occurring during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776. 

Duke Riley inside  The Acorn  in the New York Harbor (2007)

Duke Riley inside The Acorn in the New York Harbor (2007)

The Acorn  installed at PULSE Art Fair 2007

The Acorn installed at PULSE Art Fair 2007

How did the experience of winning the PULSE Prize influence your next work?

That was one of the most challenging projects I had taken on up to that point in my career. I had put every ounce of free time and money into producing the work. Every dollar counted afterwards in being able to cushion myself and dive into the project. 

Duke Riley,  Libertas Aut Mori , 2007, mosaic. Photo courtesy the artist.

Duke Riley, Libertas Aut Mori, 2007, mosaic. Photo courtesy the artist.

Your work addresses the border of hyper-governed, urban spaces, profiling “where water meets the land” – could you expand on your interest in this topic and how you came to explore these narratives through your art?

 A lot of my work addresses waterfront communities and the various threats they face, but I’m also particularly interested in that space and how it affects the mindset and the culture people that inhabit it.  Having grown up on the waterfront, my interest developed at an early age while working in Massachusetts on that working waterfront.  A lot of those interests expand beyond the waterfront as well.  I think the relationship I have developed with pigeons over the years is follows the same trajectory—they inhabit a space where the city meets the sky and where the developed world and nature collide. 

Do you feel that the access to the internet and various social media channels has affected that way that you create art and how your art is viewed?

Social media has been tremendously helpful as a way to activate people in more socially engaged projects that I’ve produced.  On the other hand, I think the idea of looking at art via social media on a 2” x 3” screen has negatively affected the way that we see art and has dumbed down the quality of the art that is being produced. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I think the best  piece of advice I’ve ever received was, “Take big risks, but always have a Plan B, Plan C and Plan D”. 

What’s coming up next for you?

 I’m currently working on a large scale intervention that involves plastic pollution in the ocean, as well as a public art piece for the MTA and Long Island Railroad. 

Duke Riley,  The Army of the Night  Installation (2017)

Duke Riley, The Army of the Night Installation (2017)

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