Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Manhattan's suicide statues...

Friday is the official opening of the latest outdoor, large-scale art project in NYC, something called "Event Horizon" by the artist Antony Gormley who has placed statues of 31 naked men on the precipices of buildings in and around Madison Square Park.

The idea of the project, Gormley says, is to get New Yorkers to look up at the men/statues, wonder what's going on and, in so doing, think of their environment in a completely different way. In effect, to pay attention to what's going on.

When I first heard of this project, I thought it was the last thing New Yorkers needed, given that those statues are an eerie reminder of the dozens of people who jumped to escape the horror of the World Trade Center towers. But now that I've thought about this for more than a moment, I think Gormley is onto something because New Yorkers make a very conscious effort to remove themselves from their environments every single day.

Maybe that's necessary. Certainly on the subways, which at times can be uncomfortably intense, it's better to seal yourself off with headphones and a good book. But what about when we're just walking around the city streets. Take a look now that the weather is getting warmer at how many people walk along chattering into their cell phones while completely ignoring their surroundings. I don't think that's healthy -- when do people give themselves a chance to think anymore, or to notice what's going on around them?

Gormley probably would have loved what happened on my subway ride today. A cute little girl loudly said "hi" the moment anyone came within ten feet of her. People began to smile, and say hello back, and chat with the mother. I felt better watching the interaction, and I'm sure others did too. That little girl changed the way we saw and felt about our environment just by saying "hi."

Sometimes we need to be shaken up and removed from the box we place ourselves in day in, day out.

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