Clever minds are at work in public art spaces. I was walking High Line Park in NYC with my family this weekend when we came upon a theater-type, open air seating area which descended downward, with windows at the bottom overlooking the traffic of 10th street that ran directly below. We gladly sat for a while, looking out the “screens” at the flowing taxis, thinking about how life is art if you look at it differently. Is “streetscape” a word? Probably.
This streetscape had a vanishing point, color, motion, and real-time change, and it was fun to see kids come down and press their faces to the glass, practically toppling into the traffic, but safe. I liked how the seating invited us to watch, like that was what we were called to do, unlike when you stand on a bridge, for instance, looking over the rail.
Imagine my delight when my family returned to street level, and we looked back at where we’d been sitting. From below, the same glass windows were again screens, but this time we were looking in, at the viewers in the theater area. When someone walked across the front carrying a white pole, a microphone boom, over his shoulder, we saw the movement from screen to screen, and realized there had to be some degree of magnification in the glass from this direction. The people above were super clear, super vivid.
It was wonderfully odd. And then it hit me: we’d been there shortly before, ourselves. If that theater space was now the artwork, we’d been in it. We’d been the subjects. But now we were the outside artwork for those observing from within.
We were art, on both sides of the glass, observers and subjects both times. I felt this leap of a connection to whatever mind set up the puzzle game in the first place, knowing that some day people like us would come and relish it. That’s vision. That’s trust. And I’m grateful.
The art was simply there, with no interpretive guide or anything, just waiting for us to entertain ourselves, experience it, and be changed forever.