Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Orcas

Like the avant garde, public art has become a genre. When I see a work of public art, I think less of the work's form, line, colour and materials than the suppositions that allow for its implementation.

For what is public art but a monument to that which two out of three people can agree on? (Sixty-six-point-six percent is but one decimal point removed from the beast.) Heaven help us if a member of the public should find the work ambiguous.

Above are two public artworks based on the orca.

The first, by Douglas Coupland, is a three-dimensional figure made of highly-finished blocks that, once digitally photographed, approximate its pixelated two-dimensional self, a work that should become active in this instance, but only under a limited set of circumstances, such as cloud cover and camera-angle. The second, by Bill Reid, is a bronze cast of a carving whose details are composed largely of ovoid motifs associated with northwest coast aboriginal art.

The first orca is caught leaping, like those once trained by Vancouver Aquarium staff to jump for their herring, while the second is further along in its leap, its dorsal fin erect, and placed outside that same aquarium.

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