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Posts Tagged ‘public art’

Much thanks to the Gothamist for sharing videos of speeches made at the official opening today of Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads,” a public sculpture installation at the Pulitzer Fountain at Central Park.

I first heard about this installation within the last week or so, and am excited to go see it. It is the first art installation to be done around the Pulitzer Fountain, and has extra meaning right now, as Ai Weiwei was disappeared by the Chinese government nearly exactly one month ago today.

The videos, I suppose, speak for themselves. I am sure that Mayor Bloomberg speaks at a great many events, and has a great many things on his mind at any given time, and I would not hold it against him if Ai Weiwei and current art events in NYC were not the very top things on his mind. To be honest, as I sit here in my dorm room in Honolulu, struggling to finish a paper and thinking about my plans for the summer, these things are not exactly foremost in my mind either. But, Bloomberg nevertheless has some very powerful and meaningful things to say, about diversity, free speech, and public art, about how these things make New York great, and about how over one billion people on this planet suffer without the most basic fundamental human right – the right to free expression.

I am embedding the videos here, so as to have some length and content to my post. But please do click through to the Gothamist’s coverage for some additional comments, and links to tons of great articles about New York culture and issues.

A number of prominent people from the New York art scene, especially Asian art curators and others with connection to Ai Weiwei or related circles, were given a brief chance to speak. It was fun and interesting for me to recognize names and faces – specifically Melissa Chu of the Asia Society, and Alexandra Munroe of the Guggenheim – and to realize that I really am beginning to “know people”, to have some “ins” in the Asian art world, especially in New York. Which is not to say that these prominent and influential people have even the vaguest idea who I am, but that’s a step that will come later. For now, one step at a time.

Ai Weiwei’s piece will be on view in Central Park until July 15.

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The new banner image (like it? don’t like it? comments, please) is from a photo I took on Kokusai-dôri (国際通り, International Avenue), the main shopping street in Naha, Okinawa. I don’t know exactly why, but I just really really love this sculpture. It suggests a feeling that anime is everyday, that you just might find an anime-style person in your everyday life on the streets in Japan.

It caught my eye, of course, such a colorful bench, and such an interesting-looking person sitting on it… and a moment later I realized of course that he’s not a real person, but a life-size anime-style fellow, everything about him so perfectly smooth, clean, and vividly colored. His hair is a bit unreal, his pose certainly on the dramatic side, not what one sees everyday. Not to mention the fact that he’s shirtless in public, something rarer in Japan, I’d venture, than in the US.

Even having looked at this picture numerous times, it never occurred to me until just now that I made no attempt to look at him from another angle, in particular from below. Though you can get a hint of it in the one photo I took, his eyes, his expression remain a mystery to me. One can assume from his body language a sense of defeat, of sadness, loneliness. The fact that it was raining, and here he is sitting, shirtless, adds to this feeling. His boots and wrapped hands give the impression he’s a boxer who’s just lost a match, or perhaps his entire career.

Looking at the photo now, I wonder if I can’t detect something of a smirk, a content happiness, on his face, like he’s just won the match, and is exhausted, but doesn’t mind the rain one bit, perhaps even likes it as it cools him off after the fight. This adds a whole other dimension to it, and actually makes me a bit happier for associating with it, for using it as my Facebook profile photo, as it is perhaps not so depressing after all.

I wish I knew more about it. The title of the piece, the artist, when it was made… maybe it was only temporary, or maybe it’s a more permanent fixture. That something so simple can be seen to have such a complex emotional meaning or feeling is really something special. The bright colors of the bench, and the smooth, clean lines of the figure are juxtaposed with his depressed, defeated body language, making it a more complex and interesting piece than it may look on first glance… and the very fact that it’s located where it is, on a real street amidst reallife, makes it a completely different thing from what it would be in a museum gallery. What would I think about this piece if I saw it in a different context? What would it say?

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