The flows of steam floating through the streets have become an inevitable part of New York’s distinct urban image. American artist Mark A. Reigelmän II has created Smökers — a site-specific project that covers erupting manholes all across New York City’s streets. A tiny wooden cabin channels the steam from the manholes through its chimney, allowing the byproduct of New York’s essential industrial process to be highlighted. The cones that usually cover a manhole are for safety reasons — so that people don’t get burned by the steam — and it doesn’t trouble the vision of drivers at street level.
Mark Reigelman’s site-specific public works challenge typical urban settings and celebrate the human condition within the urban landscape. The artist reflects on ways the public interacts both with specific environments and with each other. For Reigelman, public art can generate significant conversations about public space and its meaning.
As the installation was not sanctioned or permitted, its duration varies from 30 seconds to 3 hours depending on location and time. Thus far, Smökers has been installed in three central Manhattan locations: SoHo, East Village and Midtown.