Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sculpture Parks

New York has a few sculpture parks. However, the surrounding community seems to interact very differently with each of them, and I'm trying to understand why. For instance, the temporary exhibit "Anthropodia" in the Park Avenue Armory, located in midtown Manhattan is teaming with with young children and their mothers. The exhibit explores how our architecture is a sort of second skin with which we surround ourselves, and it blurs the line between organic and inorganic edifices. The exhibit also pushes people to interact with each other in an art museum the way they would in an outdoor public places. The exhibit does this so well that it actually seems to encourage people to interact more than they do in public spaces (at least within a very limited demographic: white, wealthy, and under 7).
The hanging sacks contain a variety of materials; the one featured here contains cinnamon.

A ball pit

In contrast, Socrates Sculpture Park, located on the shore of Queens was completely devoid of people when I visited. The park features rotating exhibits of large scale outdoor sculptures and frequently features events. The theme when I visited was "State Fair" and seemed to feature surreal larger than life urban features placed in a park setting.

It's been fairly wet the past couple of days, which may also have something to do with why people would rather visit the indoor Armory than the outdoor sculpture park.
One of the few bits of truly interactive art currently on display. It's called "Remote Arm Wrestling." As compared to normal arm wrestling, it has an equalizing factor of a counter-weight. The closer one person gets to winning, the more that person has to work against the counter-weight. Featured are Mark and Morgan, two fellow Reedies who joined me in my
With a stead trickle of occasional visitors sitting on its steps, the sculpture garden of Saint John the Divine Episcopal Cathedral (where interestingly enough, they bless the Broadway Season each year) provides a third perspective. The sculptures here center around a large allegorical sculpture surrounded by rings of little sculptures created by school children, some of which focus on such liberal heroes has Gandhi and Mark Twain. The Cathedral is located in uptown Manhattan.

My current theory is that location has the largest role to play. Located in the dense urban heart of the city, the Armory and Saint John's easily lend themselves to people just wandering in. Also, the "Antropodia" exhibit is in a controlled environment which you have to pay to enter and which has staff monitoring it, which probably makes parents more comfortable letting their kids run freely through it. Also, it has a unique weirdness with which the others just can't quite compete. If people have other thoughts has to what might attract people to one park instead of the other, I'd love to hear them.


Elana said...

The church blesses the Broadway season?!? SKETCH.

Oh, and the exhibits in the first and second places you describe look so awesome!! I especially love the interactive elements--in the first place, the ball pit and the use of cinnamon to stimulate the sense of smell; in the second, the arm wrestling thing. The third seems less inherently interactive, at least for an observer.

I'm tempted to guess that the weather had a lot to do with why there weren't a ton of people at the outdoor park. Also, the fact that there is no charge and no hours of operation (I'm assuming the park does not have as restrictive of hours as the museum) would mean that a large number of people could trickle in and out without the place becoming as dense as the museum.

I find it interesting how context plays such a large role in our perception of the exhibits. The second picture you took of the outdoor park actually looked to me (on first glance) like a regular playground. Then again, I'm sure it was more surreal when you were surrounded by other sculptures.

Ben Colahan said...

"The second picture you took of the outdoor park actually looked to me (on first glance) like a regular playground." Ya, I was kind of dissapointed because it did feel like just another playground.

And what's wrong with blessing the Broadway season? I don't think it's like "please let Broadway make lot's of money," but more of a prayer for the well-being and enjoyment of all involved.

MF Connection said...

I agree that location matters a lot. So does being under seven. Neah really gets into playing on the swings, slide, and jungle gym here in MF. And on a sunny day, there would be lots more kids about.
Elena is right about the wierdness of the indoor show being a big stimulant, and the attractiveness, the sheltering feel of it. Kids can relate to it as they do to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory.
I'm all for blessing nearly all activities. It reminds us of what can be satisfying, nourishing and fellowship building in many aspects of of our lives. European theatre started, after all, in the church.