I watched the wonderful documentary ‘Man on a wire’ the other day. This story of Frenchman Philippe Petit’s determined effort to tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in New York was incredibly powerful. During 1974 he plotted and planned until he was able to rig his wire between the tops of the Twin Towers. He then spent over an hour practising his art of wire-walking.
Apart from the jaw dropping visual aspects of this film one of the other things that struck me was Philippe’s reaction to the questions posed by the American Journalists. He couldn’t understand that the only question that they asked was, ”Why had he done it?” For him, the beauty of the act was justification itself. This is a typical Gaelic reaction but it reminded me of the dilemma that we face in this country when we begin to look into the subject of public art.
In this country we seem to be culturally programmed to react negatively to public art, particularly when it doesn’t conform to our perception of how it should look. We might, as with the new tribute to the Queen Mother, readily accept a public monument. The key to this acceptance however seems to be based upon some simple reference points. It must be easily recognisable, accurately rendered, and show an obvious level of artist skill.
Playground folklore always suggests that bike sheds are ‘multi functional’ public spaces. Far from being a simple store for teenage transport they are often represented as a centre for experimentation, and the building of illicit experience. Judging by this image, the social interaction is much more akin to an old fashioned school disco, with at least four bike stands acting as chaperon. The body language also suggests that there is only one person in charge of this situation. Sitting with a certain amount of elegance and comfort on a standard bike stand is quite and achievement.
As part of a walk recently, I ventured though a local churchyard and came across this moving memorial to a local child. It was extraordinary not only in its scale but also in the variety of objects that had been accumulated. It reminded me instantly of the outpouring of grief following the death of Diana Princess of Wales. It also reminded me of the increasingly frequent, and often informal representations of mourning that are appearing within the public realm. Although a difficult topic to face, our attitudes towards the dead, and in particular those who have been victims of violent crime or traffic accidents, is relevant to the study of how the public realm is experienced. More… »