For those accustomed to maybe a few Occupy protesters in the Westlake Center of downtown Seattle, a new art installation, entitled “Borders,” has taken over the space. It is made up of various figures sitting and standing their ground. It is by the Icelandic artist, Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir. Some passersby seem to be either mildly interested or amused enough to take a few photos. Others are more interested and want to pose and have their photo taken with the art. At first sight, it is a welcome offbeat distraction. Simply to place life-sized figures in various spots in a public square is not exactly cutting edge but maybe we don’t need cutting edge.
There’s something to be said for its getting down to basics. This work is meant to be contemplated. And there’s a good chance it will grow on you. A heads up, some figures are made of aluminum and some of cast iron and part of the experience is to see them decay over time. All in all, how can you go wrong with something like this, right? This installation just went up and it is only temporary through the fall so we here in Seattle shouldn’t get too attached to these guys. Also, we’ve had these blue trees for awhile. I’m not sure if they are part of the art since there were no blue trees when this was up in New York. But they appear to go hand in hand.
It took a long time to warm up to Jonathan Borofsky’s “Hammering Man” but, once we did, he was accepted in all his anonymity and irony. These guys are definitely anonymous but definitely more earnest than ironic. They aren’t warm and fuzzy either. They lack any of the specificity attached to the characters in “Waiting for the Interurban” by Richard Beyer, a local favorite. They have no ears or eyes or even sex, actually. So, a bit on the creepy side for some people. Or each one can be a stand-in for a universal human form. Take your pick.
The title of this work is “Borders” and that should tell you a lot. The viewer is supposed to penetrate the borders between each sculpture and join in on the “conversation” going on between the art. You can take that however you like. Often the official statement on an art exhibit, however well-intentioned, can come off as rather remote and cringe-worthy. Sometimes it requires a second reading and you discover something. That should be the case with this installation. When no one is looking, just enjoy the work and see what happens.