Laughing In the Face of Love

Milton Glaser

Something new called the Coexistence Festival raised its banners in New Brunswick over the weekend, and I was thrilled to see all 43 panels. Some are familiar amd many do nothing for me but this one, standing on perhaps the most traveled and photographed and surveilled corner in the city, was the only one that made my heart race. There’s no other place this image would remain intact. Some idiot would feel the need to vandalize it, and that “some idiot” factor is important when thinking about public art.

Outside the library stands a Mary Miss installation that is universally loathed by the faculty and staff. Sometime, I’ll take pictures of it because otherwise you’d never believe a description of what’s out there. In my opinion, it’s not just that it cost the university over $100,000 that makes it a whirling vortex of suckitude. No. It’s bad art. It’s lifeless, it interferes with ordinary movement and restricts simple line-of-sight judgments like, “Hey, what’s that guy up to?” You’ll notice the installation is not featured on Mary Miss’s website – or you can trust me: it’s not there. That is because when we saw the piece unveiled, staff members here stared at the construction project that’d made our lives miserable for some time and said, “Excuse me. That sucks. Get out of Dodge.”

Some people tried to be nice. They said things like, “That naked Emperor has a nice ass.” We have been stuck with this eyesore, which made me appreciate temporary eyesores – though I’ve always liked that one – for at least a decade. I’ve had time to think about it, I’ve weighed the merits of this installation. My feeling hasn’t changed. This thing is bad art, and shame on the committee that didn’t speak up before the money was spent.

I’m not sure what about coexistence merits a festival. That’s like saying, “Hey, let’s celebrate our…um…adequacy,” and reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s National Brotherhood Week. And I’d stand by that assessment that coexistence is a foolish, modest goal except people get all wound up and kill each other for no fucking reason whatsoever. So, sadly, coexistence suddenly looks ambitious, and let’s invite the Indigo Girls and Richie Havens. I’m a little frustrated.

It’s 2007. Two thousand goddamn seven, and some idiot will at least try to vandalize that gorgeous image and those simple words to obliterate the powerful notion that we are all interconnected. Peace, love and understanding just keep getting funnier and funnier.

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