Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Photo of the Day: Collective Self-Portrait in Gotham

A week ago, passing across midtown Manhattan’s Duffy Square, I was startled to come across what is being called “participatory public art.” Last week’s issue of Time Out New York included the “Inside Out Project” among the city’s examples of “outdoor art.”

What was happening was this: At a specially designed photo booth in Times Square, passersby could have their pictures taken, then have these black-and-white self-portraits overlaid on a backdrop created by the artist JR. (Question: “JR? You mean the guy in Dallas that just died?” Answer: I don’t know if this artist is into hats, but he’s French, so my guess is the Texas city is not his style.)

These posters, I had read, would be on display through May 10. Yesterday morning, I wondered if the project had come to a premature end, as I saw street cleaners mopping up the remains of these posters. Why were they sweeping these up? Because of the rain beginning to fall? Because new portraits needed to be made? Or because they couldn't last?

But this afternoon, I saw a whole new set, ready to replace the old images.

It’s almost Whitmanesque, this celebratory Song of Ourselves. Sadly, though it might be public art, it’s also, at heart, ephemeral art, too. The black-and-white posters seen here are already history. The image you see on your screen now is the last evidence of their existence.

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