It Sort Of Serves Them Right

On the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, England, a huge, 20-foot-high modern art sculpture of two clasped hands that used to form a kind of galvanized steel wire archway over one of the walking paths had to be moved.

88342508_88342296Why?  Not because it was ill-suited to the classic and graceful lines of the church — although it definitely was.  No, it had to be moved because texting people kept walking into it and hitting their heads because they weren’t paying attention.  It’s part of a trend.  In 2014, 2,500 people went to emergency rooms for injuries they sustained because they were distracted by their cellphones while walking.  This occurs even though texting walkers tend to change their stride to protect themselves while walking, because they know they are putting themselves at risk of, say, stumbling into an open manhole.  But even baby steps can’t save you when your attention is fully occupied by your cellphone’s buzz and a friend’s emoticon and LOL that apparently demand an immediate response even as you are walking down the street.

Should the clasped hands sculpture have been moved?  Yes, of course — but because it was butt-ugly and should never have been put there in the first place, not because members of the Constantly Texting Brigade were walking into it.  In fact, you could argue that we would be doing the texting addicts a service if we installed more fire hydrants, sculptures, canopies, abutments, and crotch-height traffic bollards along our sidewalks and pathways.  After having a few painful but non-lethal encounters with objects in plain sight that attentive, non-texting pedestrians can easily detect and avoid, maybe the texters would come to realize that they should just put away their damned phones while they’re walking, interact with their surroundings, and pay attention for a change.

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Modern Art, Or Campus Sign Post

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This object on the University of Chicago campus looks like a piece of modern art, with its different textures and markings. Alas, it’s just an incredibly well used sign post, embedded with hundreds of staples that cling to little scraps of paper left by countless signs announcing lectures or dance recitals or rock concerts, leaving an inadvertent design. When you walk past, you can’t help but wonder how old is the oldest shard of paper on the post.

Art is all around us.

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Modern Art Along The Scioto Mile

Columbus wants to complete its Scioto Mile Park with a monumental sculpture.  The plan is to add a large piece of artwork along the riverfront that will become as identifiable with Columbus as the Gateway Arch is with St. Louis and the Space Needle is with Seattle.

The proposed piece would be abstract, six stories tall, made of reflective metal, and shaped like . . . the cooling tower of a nuclear plant.  Not surprisingly, some people are questioning that design.

I like the idea of putting a large piece of public art along the Scioto Mile.  I think it should be a bold statement, not some timid, compromise product of a committee.  We don’t need another realistic sculpture like the big statue of Christopher Columbus in front of City Hall.  I’m not sure how I feel about the “cooling tower” design — it seems like the shape is so defined with nuclear plants that viewers won’t really see or think of anything else — but I’m willing to reserve judgment if that is the piece that is selected.

Anyone who has been to Millennium Park in Chicago knows that people are attracted to large, memorable public art pieces like “the Bean.”  If the “cooling tower” is interesting, fun to look at, well made, and allows for interesting photo opportunities, people will go see it — and that, after all, is the idea.

Best Modern Public Art Ever

I love public art, but I’m not a huge fan of most modern public art.  With few exceptions — the Calder works come to mind — a lot of the public modern art looks like rusting hunks of junk that people tend to avoid, whereas the whole concept of public art is to engage and, perhaps inspire, the passerby.

On the square in the Les Halles area of Paris, in front of the St. Eustache Cathedral, there is a large stone or concrete ovoid head and hand.  As we walked through the square multiple people engaged with the whimsical head and hand, and in different, interesting ways.  People took pictures, people examined it, people posed with it.  There was even graffiti sprayed on the back of the head. It’s one of the more successful pieces of public modern art that I’ve seen.

From The Top Of The Pomp

The Dome church and the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Pompidou Center

Today Richard and I walked over to the Pompidou Center, which is located a few blocks in from the right bank of the Seine.

Notre Dame and the Pantheon

The Pompidou Center is famous as the “inside-out” building, where all of the piping and wiring for the building is on the outside and is color-coded, with separate, bright colors for the pipes that deliver water, electricity, and so forth.  The effect is quite striking, and makes the exterior of the Pompidou Center one of the most interesting buildings in Paris.  The Pompidou Center also is home to an extensive collection of modern art, as well as a library, cinemas, and other areas dedicated to the visual arts.

Whether you appreciate the modern art or not — and I’m going to have to go with Russell one of these days, so that he can explain the ideas behind some of the pieces — you have to love the view from the top of the escalator on the outside of the building.  It may be the best panoramic vantage point in Paris.

Sacre Coeur

The escalator, like the piping and wiring, also is inside out.  It runs up one side of the building overlooking a square.  And when you reach the top, you get a commanding view of three of Paris’ most famous landmarks:  Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Sacre Coeur.  The view alone is worth the price of admission.

The view also makes you realize that the older part of Paris really is like Washington, D.C. — lots of buildings of pretty much uniform height, and then some special landmarks that really dominate the skyline.  It is probably one of the few famous cities in the world where church steeples and spires remain some of the highest points in the urban landscape.