Space to Pass
First Set of Images (Photographs by Rebecca Schneider and J.R. Bradley. Chicago. August, 2001). In 2001 I traveled to the "Seated Lincoln" by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, created between 1887 and 1906, that stands in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. This Lincoln is, of course, properly "monumental" - his chair is elevated far above the park and indeed his gaze "overlooks" the passersby. The first set of slides show this statue. Isn't he regal?
Second Set of Images (Photographs by Rebecca Schneider and J.R. Bradley. Chicago. August, 2001). After viewing the Seated Lincoln, I walked in the city. As chance would have it, a public art installation project was in place in Chicago and several blocks from Saint-Gaudens "Seated Lincoln" I came upon another statue that interested me very much. This statue was part of Chicago's "Public Art Program" which sponsors sculpture in temporary installation in public space throughout the city. For the 2001 project, Suite Home Chicago, artists were commissioned to create domestic furniture art (insignia of private space and commemorative of Chicago's historic furniture industry) in monumental fashion in public space. (The Cows on Parade project of 1999 is perhaps the best known of these public and largely popular endeavors that are marked by humor, irreverence, and the carnivalesque.) Suite Home Chicago featured life-sized fiberglass forms of a suite of furniture - sofa, chair, ottoman, television - each designed by a local artist and sponsored by a business, organization, or individual. Televisions and sofas as monuments appeared throughout the city as if the city had turned itself inside out, tumbling the contents of private interiors onto public streets and rendering the TV and Sofa as monumental. This work made me think of the medieval practice of Corpus Christi when the religious mansions from inside the Church were carried out into the public square, into the marketplace - except in Chicago in 2001, the mansions of Christ's passion had become the living room sets containing TV drama, and stations of the cross were channels on TV.
The sofa set I was particularly interested in was built and designed by an anonymous artist, sponsored by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism, and located at 400 North Michigan. It was titled "Don't Just Sit There, Do Something." This public monument included a sofa with a fiberglass Abe Lincoln figure sitting atop of it. The figure was part of the sofa, and people sat on the sofa next to Lincoln, or sat on his lap, held his hand, and leaned up against him. Go though the images one by one - I've lined them up with some care. Eventually you'll notice that the figure also had a huge bloody hole in his head - just the right size for a finger! Look at how the passersby react to it. I spent half of one day with this figure, photographing the invitation to touch and probe, amazed at the numbers of people who caressed the Dead Man almost nonchalantly, and sometimes with extreme tenderness.
Third Set of Images (Photographs by Rebecca Schneider and J.R. Bradley. Chicago. August, 2001). I made a "return visit" to Saint-Gauden's Lincoln. In contrast to the anonymous "Don't Just Sit There, Do Something," Saint-Gauden's Lincoln chair sits atop a pedestal, removed in every aspect from the domestic (no bronze TV, no bronze ottoman). There is no hole in this Father's head. And there is no access to his lap. While I was there, no one came to caress this austere patron memorializing Illinois and America - except me - as you'll see. Of course, much could be written here of the shift in statuary (and the problem of memorial) between the last turning century and the most recent one, but for the moment space is limited, and thus we will consider the passerby more than that statue itself. With the help of a friend, I climbed up onto the lap of the monument and had myself photographed touching this Lincoln as so many touched the "other" bloody-holed Lincoln several blocks away. Wow - I thought - this is quite a view! From atop the statue, however, I was not in a position to be overlooked, and thus, feeling uncomfortable, and rapidly forgetting why I'd followed this impulse in the first place, I scrambled down from the Dead Dad's lap almost as quickly as I'd dared to scramble up. I merged, again, into the street, and passed by.