October 01, 2006

 pride and prejudice

the neighborhood just to the south of mine recently had a traffic circle installed at one of their busiest intersections. and because those people are ALMOST as cool as us, they've also decided to start using their new circle as a place for public art:


here you see a purple bench, a green table-like thing, an old lamp (on the ground) and a big metal pole with a cardboard box on top. on the four sides of the box appear words: YOUR. CRAZY. ART. HERE.

a nice start, folks. :-)

now on to MY neighborhood circle:


i wasn't sure what this meant until i saw the following message appear on the neighborhood listserv:

the little patch of public space known as asphalt island is one of the few public spaces remaining where free speech can be expressed. most of the installations are self censored. the installations are often fun, quirky, light hearted, but always family friendly. the circle is often a celebration of everydayness, and the installations follow guidelines set by the city.

on saturday morning the traffic circle contained a bio hazard of pink kryptonite in celebration of gay pride. that same morning before 9 a.m. a note was placed saying "PLEASE REMOVE THIS UGLY SHIT." (NOT a family friendly note) just a few minutes after seeing the note the diversity tower of pink kryptonite was torn down/disappeared.

what is deemed "UGLY SHIT" is low cost art. because of theft the pieces are low cost or found objects. most people installing something in the circle know that objects may be stolen or vandalized.

what is so hard about seeing an object for five seconds as you drive by? is anything thought provoking offensive? not everyone will like what is placed in the circle but the pieces do build community. they encourage discussion. they invite others to participate. whoever removed the pink kryptonite dictated what everyone else got to see (or not see).

we are very disturbed that today, the day of gay pride, was marred by an incident of intolerance. free expression is not about universal approval, and it's also not about one person's disapproval.

full of pride,

another message followed, a half-hour later:

the pink kryptonite was found in a nearby garbage can. people should be careful how they dispose of bio hazards.


(RABiD, by the way, stands for "Renegade Arts Brigade in Durham")

Posted by xta at October 1, 2006 06:19 PM | TrackBack

I dig the propeller painting even if the rest of the sculpture has gone missing.

In fact, given my on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand feelings about people putting up unsolicited art where every has/gets to see it, I'm turned on by the idea that people could do 2-D art in the circles so that only people who *want* to see what's new in public art would see it.

At Carnegie Mellon (where I spent one year and where folks can actually major in bagpipe) there was/is a big fence that frat or other organizations would use for painting announcements. The rule was that you could only paint at night and that you had to guard the new signage all night or risk someone painting over your sign. Over the years before I got there (back in '85-'86) the fence had grown to be 3/4 paint and 1/4 wood. It was kind of cool. And gummy.

Posted by: Phil at October 2, 2006 01:44 AM

Hm. Well, to me, one of the major points of public art is to get a reaction from the public. Just because this piece didn't get the reaction desired by RABID doesn't mean that the piece a) failed or b) that the people reacting to it did so in the "wrong" way. Once the art leaves the studio, artist's intentionality can (and some would say should) take a backseat to the interpretation(s) of the viewer/s. It sure sucks to see something you've worked on destroyed, but public interaction with a piece is one of the many dangers, and gratifications, of public art.

Also, I didn't see the original piece, but its description as "pink kryptonite" within a radioactive symbol strikes me as a (perhaps unintentionally) not-queer-friendly work. I mean, Kryptonite hurt superman, so all I can think is that pink kryptonite would hurt queers. Maybe whoever left the nasty note and destroyed the piece thought it was actually an anti-gay statement. Putting up art that could be reasonably construed as anti-gay during pride week = lookin' fer trouble, and not "family friendly."

Posted by: marie at October 2, 2006 03:16 AM

I heart your traffic circle.
I get very happy when you post new pics of the art that has been displayed.

Posted by: Gidge at October 2, 2006 07:51 AM

GRRRR. I don't even live anywhere near you, and I LOATHE the TCH (Traffic Circle Haters).

I live in Birmingham, and during the month of October we have what is called "Random Acts of Art". It is pretty cool. Artists, poets, performers, authors, sculptors, photographers...all demonstrate their talent at unexpected times in unexpected places throughout Birmingham.

I think it is great that your community can have the same thing all year!!!

Posted by: Matt at October 3, 2006 12:50 PM

The "pink kryptonite" installation was intended, I believe, as queer-friendly. It started as a neighborhood joke a few years ago, and was picked up and repeated in volume 3 of the "Dyke Park Newsletter" on April 1st of this year (a queer-friendly neighborhood newsletter parody that's come out [get it? "come out" :) ] on the past three April Fool's days). The idea was not that the pink kryptonite would hurt queers, but that it turned otherwise straight people into queers.

While I can't guarantee I know who installed the pink kryptonite, I have a pretty good guess who; and that it was, in fact, a queer-friendly installation. Me, I just wish I'd seen it before someone trashed it. All that was left for me to see was the pink radiation trefoil and a little plywood thing.

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas at October 9, 2006 12:36 AM
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