I love this story about Paul Ramirez Jonas’s piece “Key to the City” commissioned by the public-art organization Creative Time, in cooperation with the City of New York and how one young woman responded to it, creating her own performance piece as it were.
New York has some great public art programs that cause you to interact with the city and its denizens in unexpected ways. Several years ago, I participated (for want of a better word) in artist Janet Cardiff’s “Her Long Black Hair” funded by the Public Art Fund. In that piece, you picked up earphones at a kiosk on Central Park West and donning them followed “clues” along a route through Central Park. The role of the mysterious woman (seen in a polaroid from the back) remained ambiguous, but none the less the piece triggered one’s imagination. The result was powerful, haunting, even a little creepy as one wandered through the park. It made you experience it in such a a different way.
And of course who could forget “The Gates.” So fabulous. I loved it; I love it gone. Presence/Absence. It was a thing of beauty; it also drew attention to the natural beauty of the park: one appreciated the trees and green even more after the orange fabric was removed. It also had a wholly unexpected yet powerful effect, turning New York giddy as if it was wearing a giant party hat. (Which it kinda was.)