On the future of sculpture in public space

Sandwich by Sarah Lucas @HW

In Bristol, an angry mob dragged a statue down the street while a concrete sandwich under a ditch in one of London’s skyscrapers. De Chirico seems to have left something at Cambridge station. The life of sculpture in public space … History across the channel.

In London, there is a concrete sandwich the size of a double bed. Three skyscrapers – the 118-meter-tall Mississippi-style St. Helen’s Tower (GMW, 1969), the iconic 225-meter-high Cheesegretter (RSHP, 2014) and the 278-meter-high Glass Monster 22 Bishopgate (PLP, 2020) – will occupy the entire space this summer. This place is shady even in the brightest sun.

British artist Sarah Lucas chose the exact spot to place her sculpture, titled “Sandwich,” so that office workers could sit down and have their lunch. The site is part of an annual contemporary sculpture path called ‘Sculpture in the City’, built in the heart of London’s main financial district.

Before sushi, superfood salads, bean enchiladas and other healthy foods, the sandwich was the ideal lunch for millions of people in the UK. Bacon and ketchup were especially popular on thick, flat white bread. We still eat sandwiches, but less than before, and they’re probably vegetarian. Sarah Lucas has no seeds of bread. However, his sandwich is a “monument” that is slowly becoming a collective memory.

It vividly illustrates the proposal of Aldo Rossi, who saw the city as a treasure trove of collective memory in his book “L’architettura della Città” (1966). According to him, monuments play a key role, encoding memories in stone. What is the relationship of sculpture with collective memory? And since we acknowledge today that the built environment has a responsibility to activate city life, we must also ask ourselves what is the relationship between public sculpture and city life?

Most historical statues are ignored, but their collective memory can be reactivated. When George Floyd was publicly murdered by Minneapolis police in 2020, it sparked international outrage. Bristol, England was already thinking about its history as a slave trade port. The two incidents came together when an angry mob gathered around the statue of slave trader Edward Colston, who had long been considered a big city man. Sprinkled with red, dropped from its base, dragged down the street, the statue was eventually thrown into port water. The local police also did not intervene.

Colston on his way to Bristol (June 2020) @ Michael Lloyd

Like the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, which was torn down in 2003, or the statues of Lenin pulled across the former Soviet Union, collective memory is discarded. It was a fantastic explosion of emotion and manpower. Q: Do you have to erase the memory of evil? The shame of cities may require museums, where statues and other evidence of a bad past are displayed, interpreted, and served as educational resources. The Holocaust Museum is a good model.

Sculpture can encapsulate a city’s more beautiful historical memories. In a quiet alley in London’s Upscale Mayfair, Neil French’s Three Figures (2012) poses for fashion photographer Terrence Donovan with 60s model Twiggy, while some shoppers look on. It freezes an intimate and magical moment in an unexpected place. Why can’t architects think like this when they’re busy? ” Create space ?

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Blue French’s Three Figures (2012) depicts Terrence Donovan, Twiggy, and a shopping man. Picture @ HW
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Granary by Jesse Pollock @HW

Five kilometers east, at a dull anchor near the 180-meter-high Gherkin (Foster + Partners, 2004), another of 20 sculptures on the ‘Sculpture in the City’ route: an architectural subject, The Granary (2021), signed by Jesse Pollock. A glossy orange shape, inflated like a balloon, represents a historic English granary, raising questions about cities and countries. In the urban landscape, its color is amazing and tempting like candy

Contemporary sculpture, often through the use of provocative colors and shapes, evokes a desire to see and urges citizens to register it on social networks, especially Instagram. This shared digital memory is a new form of shared memory and has a global reach. Rossi realized this: his floating Tetro del Mondo (1980) in Venice is a pre-digital sign that invites a global projection of architectural imagery.

The sculpture has now become a communications activity to highlight its position in corporate sponsorship funding. We are in the universe of Debord’s “Société du Spectacle”, and digital is the mediator of contemporary philosophy. The idea of ​​sophisticated urbanites about urban life is constantly being refined Quarter hour city By Carlos Moreno. Street food »(Street food), re-marketed for wounds at five times the price when it was on the street. Sculpture has a place in this contemporary philosophy which is at the root of capitalism, consumption and insignificance.

I am referring to the various skyscrapers in London because each is a form of sculpture, so these corporate buildings are also sculpture. Even the straight, square black form of the Stay-Helen Tower is an example of high modern minimalism expressed in both art and architecture. Modernism was blind to its pre-existing urban context, in which community life and the new ” City What he has created does not always work. The architecture of the sculpture then becomes ” Structure 6, with the same indifference to the human scale and history. Now, that’s yesterday’s architecture.

Future architecture must be organic – buildings made of natural materials that inhabit plant life and create civic life. Public sculpture also seeks this path. Thomas Heatherington designed a ‘tree of trees’ for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It will have 350 trees in a tree-like steel structure outside Buckingham Palace.

This may not be the way to go. The trees will be isolated in containers, secluded because they cannot connect via a web of mycelium, and the structure has been compared to a mobile network mast.

Aldo Rossi draws buildings and statues in the classical style to convey the collective memory of a fictional and metaphysical city, clearly influenced by de Chirico’s surrealism. Interestingly, a new sculpture outside Cambridge Station, Gavin Turk’s ‘Unrapped in Ariadne’, looks exactly like a Rossi-de Chirico statue, without wrapping and tying it like Cristo and Jean-Claudius.

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Artist Gavin Turk with his sculpture wrapped in Ariadne at Cambridge CB1 @ Phil Minot
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Alice in Wonderland, Bloom Paradise, June T. Lai @ Sina Latif – Sculpture courtesy of City

On July 23, ‘Sculpture in the City’ is hosting an evening of a live performance titled ‘Nocturnal Animals’. In one of its many events, repeated since last year, skaters on rollerblades are Taiwanese artist Jun T. Lai’s ‘Bloom Paradise’ is a collection of sculptures revolving around wild colorful shapes. Alice, a new contemporary in Wonderland, also designed the swollen outfits for skaters. This is a delightful update to the collective memory. Like the Bristol protesters, Jun Lai showed how sculpture can enliven the city and create magic, just as De Chiriko and Rossi envisioned.

Herbert Wright
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