Friday 26th August 2016The Emperor Has No.... Umm...
No matter where in the world you live, it's hard not to cringe at the current state of the United States' presidential election runup. Regardless of how you feel about Clinton or any of the third party candidates, it's virtually impossible to take the candidacy of Donald Trump seriously. He's managed to offend virtually every group of voters other than non-college-educated white men, and yet he still manages to capture the airwaves and set the terms of the entire election race. He's been impervious to scandals that would have toppled any other candidate in US history, but he may at last have met his match. Himself, in fact - naked, in parks across America.
Courtesy of the anarchist artist collective INDECLINE, life-sized statues of Donald Trump completely naked appeared in many places, including Union Square Park in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland and Seattle on August 18th. The likeness is hardly flattering, and the title of the piece apparently is called 'The Emperor Has No Balls' - and, sure enough, the statues seemed to be missing the relevant part of typical male anatomy.
Of course, parks officials across the country were not overly pleased by the guerrilla public art installations, and rapidly began to take them down, despite the hilarious and overwhelming support that they seemed to get from the general public, as you can see in the image on the right. Many more photos were taken and circulated around social media, ensuring that the memory of the statue will live on even after it's earthly presence has been removed.
INDECLINE, the collective who are apparently responsible for the explained their choice of statues. “Like it or not, Trump is a larger-than-life figure in world culture at the moment. Looking back in history, that’s how those figures were memorialized and idolized in their time — with statues.” Their spokesman only commented with the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, naturally.
To cap it all off, after the New York City Parks Department removed the statue in Union Square Park, eventually NYC Parks spokesman Sam Biederman offered a statement about the event: "NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small."
Ouch. Here's hoping that INDECLINE has managed to puncture the windbaggery that has characterized the Trump campaign, and helped in some small way to save the world from his presidency.
Posted on August 26th 2016 on 06:02pm
Wednesday 03rd June 2015Please Touch the Art
The most interesting things happen on borders. The places where the edges between areas merge - whether they're natural ecosystems, cities or ideas - is where the magic happens. Ideas shift and blend together, and you never know what will happen next. This may be part of the reason that Brooklyn Bridge Park, situated (you guessed it!) right near Brooklyn Bridge between its namesake and Manhattan, is playing host to an appealing new series of art installations for the next year. The brainchild of Danish artist Jeppe Hein, the series is relatively unique among public art projects in that viewers are encouraged to experience the artwork by interacting with it directly. The series is entitled, 'Please Touch the Art', and everyone involved hopes you'll do just that among the 18 different installations that are scattered throughout the park.
As Nicholas Baume, Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator says, "Jeppe grew up in Denmark where art is very much a part of civic life… this democratic spirit of public art is something he feels naturally connected to." In an official press release, he also discussed the work in more detail. "“Imaginative, whimsical, irreverent, and emotionally resonant, Jeppe Hein turns familiar expectations of works of art on their head. Instead of the respectful distance demanded in museums, Hein’s work invites participation. Titling the exhibition Please Touch the Art, he encourages us to interact with his art in the most direct physical terms. Through that immersive experience, Hein hopes that his work will also touch us."
Whether you happen to be in New York now, or are going to be there in the near future, you're in luck, as the exhibit will be staying in the park until April, 2016. Hopefully, the exhibit will encourage New Yorkers to abandon their traditional (or at least, stereotypical) disconnect from the city around them if it doesn't directly affect them, and bring them the joy and life of a European artistic perspective. While Central Park has played host to grand artistic gestures (think of Cristo's saffron gates project that delighted park-goers several years ago), it's the titular crown of all of New York's parks - it's nice to see things spreading outwards as the city grows and evolves.
To learn more about Jeppe Hein and his past works, take a stop over at his website http://www.jeppehein.net/
. There are also some great images of his past and present projects.
Posted on June 03rd 2015 on 07:19pm
Wednesday 08th April 2015Uncommissioned Snowden Sculpture in New York
Guerrilla art installations have a long and checkered history, and one might argue that it's one of the few remaining artistic styles that can provide genuine surprise and shock to the viewer, thanks to the inherent unexpectedness of running into a piece of art where you least expect it. A perfect example is the social media firestorm that was triggered by a piece of guerilla sculpture that was installed in a New York City park on April 6th, 2015. Unfortunately, the piece was rapidly removed (extremely surprisingly rapidly, considering that city officials were responsible), but not before some excellent photos were captured and submitted to the social media news website Mashable.
The piece is extremely controversial, which is probably a large part of the reason that officials were so eager to remove it: it was a bust of Edward Snowden. Installed in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, it was actually mounted atop a prior memorial dedicated to prisoners of war who died on British prison ships during the American Revolution, which is no doubt at least partly responsible for the rapidity with which the New York Parks department covered and then removed the piece. Perhaps amusingly, Mashable reports that the artists had entertained hopes that that statue would attain permanent residency in the park, which is remarkably naive, if true.
Whether you believe he was a heroic whistleblower that exposed massive government surveillance programs or that he was a traitor who betrayed American security, it's hard to deny that Snowden is a pivotal figure in current geopolitics. Whether that means it's appropriate to idolize him at the expense of other memorials is maybe outside the scope of this short post, but the artists did make some interesting comments about what they hoped ooto accomplish with the piece.
Speaking to Mashable, the artists responsible for the piece explained, "This is a guy who some of the traditional mass media has portrayed as a traitor, or a terrorist, and the very same thing would have been said about these POWs in the Revolutionary War times. But with 200 years of perspective, we realized they were fighting for something all of us are very grateful for. We hope it will shift people’s perceptions, or open their eyes, that there could be a different story than what they’e been told."
It's long been the case that repressive regimes tend to strike first at the creative community with censorship and other weapons, but it seems like something of a stretch to claim that this is what's currently happening in America. Regardless, this art installation forced Snowden back into the public consciousness, demonstrating again that media savvy is one of the most important tools when it comes to freedom of speech.
Posted on April 08th 2015 on 04:41pm