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Man vs. Nature

Bill discusses his favorite public installation pieces, and explains why "Scales" lost the challenge.


My favorite public art of all time is Jeff Koons' flower "Puppy" installation at Rockefeller Center mounted ten years ago this summer. The 43-foot tall sculpture is just one instance of Jeff's engagement with the public realm. Perhaps the other most memorable example is his silver bunny float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade a few years back. Engagement is the key word here, for as we get older we tend to disconnect socially, physically, mentally and we must push ourselves to stay activated, to fight stagnation and entropy. That's our challenge.

Outdoor art is often forced to pass another litmus test, especially when it's shown in a less urban setting. I'm thinking of a piece like Franz West's colorful twists, "The Ego and the Id," currently on view through August at the South East corner of Central Park. I believe it was in the book Against Nature where the author states that for something manmade to be considered truly beautiful, it must be able to hold it's own amidst the splendor of nature. Using this benchmark, I would argue that "Scales" should have won the public art challenge.

Personally I was OK awarding their team the victory and still sending Erik home, but the rules as laid out before us were that the person eliminated must be on the losing team. And I do agree that "Scales" capacity for interaction and possible public safety risks were factors in the decision-making process. Jerry really liked this episode and his point about the tree house being pointed skyward toward the World Trade Center - unbeknownst to its creators - is the type of deconstructionist opportunities in contemporary art that draw me to it as a creative field.

One quick side note - the park on Canal Street where the challenge took place just happened to be under a temporary billboard of an empty bed by Felix Gonzales Torres, which felt like some kind of invitation to participate from beyond. The best part is that to the casual passerby you'd never know what is was or who made it ... and you don't have to!

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