• Benji Sills

Sisyphus Stones

One of Manhattan’s most under-appreciated displays of public art, the Sisyphus Stones are gravity-defying stacks of rocks that seem to bend all laws of physics. Part of the reason they might be less commonly known is because of their placement - the stones are situated quite far up the island, near the entrance to the George Washington bridge. The walk there is long and periodically somewhat alarming. At first we wandered through blocks of well-lit streets, but eventually Google Maps lead us out along the Hudson River. As we walked, the streetlights blinked above us less and less frequently until we were eventually stumbling around in near-blackness. Before too long, we were walking through a riverside park along the sort of shaded paths where joggers always find bodies on SVU. Paige had her phone out and pre-dialed to 911 as we nervously blundered along.

Clearly we were not murdered however and we finally cleared through much of the dim park and found ourselves by a waterside clearing. The bridge loomed above us, only about five blocks away at this point, and nestled beside us was a rocky outcrop with the stones piled along it. In person, the stones were even stranger than in photos. The stacks, some of which are several feet high, are made of heavy rocks that seem impossibly balanced on each other. It gives the impression of a miniature stone-age skyline. We debated for several minutes whether the stones were cemented in place or not and decided that no vandal could resist the temptation of knocking them down like a Jenga tower. Apparently though, and we cannot verify this as we haven’t branched into vandalism just yet, but allegedly the stones are not glued in place in any way.

They first began appearing in summer of 2017 as the work of artist Uliks Gryka, who was inspired by the rough collection of stones along the riverbank. At first, vandals did indeed get a kick out of pushing the art over, but it seems they have largely given up as the Sisyphus Stones have become a semi-permanent feature of the area. No casual vandalism and not even a light evening murder in the park? What are the local criminals even up to these days? On the occasion that the stones do crumble from tides, locals have taken to rebuilding the stacks. Assuming Washington Heights doesn’t see an upswing in local bullies, these mysterious towers of precarious wonder are always around for your contemplation.

The Sisyphus Stones are located a few blocks south of the George Washington Bridge, connecting Manhattan with New Jersey. The stones are landmarked on Google for a precise location.

They're open to the public and free to visit at any time.

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