By Clare Henry

A big idea takes lots of guts and confidence. Our Scottish hero, super-star Tate Turner prize winner Douglas Gordon, has never lacked either, and his current New York Park Avenue Armory extravaganza, Tears become .. streams become... is breathtaking, thrilling, intoxicating in its audacity.

He has flooded a huge 55,000 sq ft Victorian Manhattan space with 122,000 gallons of water as a setting for a classical piano recital. Not just any recital, but one by the celebrated French star, Helene Grimaud.

Immersive is the current 2014 byword for all installations, but never has the word been so apt. The black water creeps silently towards us, creating a giant glassy mirror reflecting a perfect ellipse of zigzag cross beams and massive barrel-vaulted ribs 85 ft above us. These iron arches allow the soaring ceiling and gigantic floor to be a vast uninterrupted space, reminding me of nothing less than a ship's hull, an empty vessel from John Browns shipyard. Lights dimmed, in the silence a single wave laps. Suddenly spot lights pick out two pianos as Grimaud, a lonely fragile figure on her island, plays her programme of water-themed works by Debussy, Ravel, Liszt and Berio, creating a unique confluence of live music and visual art.

Grimaud is known for her flamboyance; her willingness to take chances, reinterpret works, stray from the original score, shake up conventional wisdom.

"A wrong note that is played out of elan, you hear it differently to one that is played out of fear," she says. "How you phrase music, let it be born of the instant."

Both Gordon and Grimaud love to upend convention, so joining forces for this epic event seems natural. And the piano has long been Gordon's favourite sculpture form. He keeps 3 in his studio. "It is one of the most refined, definitive representations of Western civilization."

Gordon now lives in Berlin, teaching film in Frankfurt. Recently his work has increasingly included collaborations with other artists; also music. His daughter's mother is a soprano, so perhaps it's not surprising.

Alex Poots, Armory's artistic director, and another Brit, has worked with Gordon for years.

"We knew each other last century", quips Gordon. It was Poots who introduced Gordon to Grimaud. "I'm lucky she's prepared to work with an alcoholic Scotsman." Both artists share a love of wolves. Yes, wolves. Grimaud has established a wolf sanctuary in upstate New York; Gordon is merely compelled by them.

Gordon claims a teenage guitar put him on his artistic path. "My dad played the bagpipes too. So how many vocal chords do we all have? And how many keys to the piano?" he demanded, immediately supplying the answer," 2 and 88 plus ten fingers, 2 feet for the pedals." He looks at Grimaud and shakes his head in bemused admiration. "We are trying to illuminate the darkness."

"There is no recipe," she adds "To come together with someone as visionary as Douglas exceeds the sum of its individual parts. This way the emotional journey can be magnified in an exponential way; alter things a fraction of a second at a time." Gordon pounces. "That could be my next text piece". They obviously get along.

Gordon, now 48, has won a panoply of prizes: the Primo 2000 at Venice; 1998 Hugo Boss; Haftman in Zurich; the Kathe-Kollwitz in Berlin. He usually works with video an his films have appeared at the Cannes, Toronto & Venice film festivals. But there is no video here, just old fashioned shadows thrown onto the walls.

"We experimented with colour, but a monochrome field works best in the bare bones of this building."

Grimaud has a condition - synaesthesia - which means she sees colours when she plays music. How did she feel about wearing white gum boots to leave her "stage"?

"A challenge is a source of inspiration. It's one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. This setting helps you to internalise your musical vision. But it does mess with my orientation." Ours too.

Gordon is working his way through the elements - air, Fire (he set a Bechstein grand alight on a hillside in Cumbria - a comment on the Scottish/English borders) and now water. When he first suggested flooding the Armory's hall, "little did he know the logistics involved," says , the venue's President, Rebecca Robertson, "7000 concrete blocks and 900 panels to level the floor; miles of PVC pipe." Arup are the engineers; Steinway loan the pianos. The biggest problem to be solved was the humidity, which is death to a piano.

Robertson is responsible for transforming the Armory from a damp derelict building into a platform for boundless creative expression by pioneering artists, developing new ways of evolving their art forms. The building budget is $200m dollars and she won't say what Gordon's Tears become is costing. Previous projects have include work by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Merce Cunningham Dance; Stockhausen's Gruppen with three orchestras; Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth and Bach's St Matthew Passion. Tears become is the eighth site specific visual arts presentation.

Coinciding with the Armory installation, Gordon also shows his film, Phantom, at Gagosian Gallery, 821 Park Avenue. Here he collaborated with singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright. A eye tears in extreme slow-motion. Two pianos, one burnt, complete the scenario.

As Gordon remindsme, I have been writing about him since he was 17 and seen his work in Scotland, England, Italy, Germany, France, and America. He has created many memorable majestic moments; some surprising spectacles. Tears become .. streams become... is simply a triumph for one of the most prominent visual artists of his generation.

How deep is the water? As deep as your imagination allows.