During tougheconomic times, Imperial Rome distracted itself by staging naval battles inside a flooded Coliseum. Artist Duke Riley plans to wage a similar spectacle, only in Queens, N.Y.
Next week, city parks engineers are set to fill up a vacant pool on the grounds of the 1964 Worldâ€™s Fair so Mr. Riley can launch his homemade armada of 30-foot-long Spanish galleons, Egyptian river boats, and Polynesian war canoes. All the vessels were made mainly from recycled materials and invasive reeds yanked from the nearby wetlands.
Much of the Thursday battle is still unscripted, but teams of artists and curators in gladiator gear intend to board their vessels and sink their rivals in front of spectators dressed in togas. Mr. Riley, whose tattoo-style drawings are collected by major patrons like Whitney Museum of American Art board member Melva Bucksbaum and the Brooklyn Museum, will be on hand himself and may dole out buckets of fake blood. He says he canâ€™t afford to pay workers, so all the participants on the project are unpaid volunteers. Rebecca Goyette, an educator at the Museum of Modern Art who has been assigned to play Caligulaâ€™s wife, says she wonâ€™t mind getting splattered: â€œI want to fight.â€