Thursday, October 17, 2013

David and Goliath: Public Art or Atrocity in Barcelona?

From a Distance
At first glance I  dismissed this contemporary sculpture, David i Goliat, as another unfortunate example of bad modern art. Like a piece of paper trash elevated by a strong wind, its crude, white face sails high above pedestrians and cars alike, soiling rather than enhancing the city´s skyline.
 Measuring 59 feet (18 meters) high,  David i Goliat looms over pedestrians in Parc de les Cascades, Vila Olimpica
By Catalan sculptor Antoni Llena for the 1992 summer Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain

Up Close and Personal
But the other day, instead of walking around the sculpture I was finally forced to walk underneath it. For the first time, I noticed its name, and that alone made me stop and think. (No surprise there, as I am a sucker for references to iconic or mythical characters. Getting the less obvious ones makes me feel that my overpriced, liberal arts education is actually worth something.)

But, back to the point. As I stood there, looking up into Goliath´s huge, vacant eyes, I felt small and confused. Could it be true? Was Goliath, the merciless and fearsome enforcer from days of yore, actually modelled out of what appeared to be a huge post-it note and a few, reshaped paperclips? Apparently so.

The thoughts "what a load of crap" and "why?" passed through my head almost simultaneously.  

Altered Perspectives
Now I was not only confused, but also irritated. By nature I am prone to mental laziness, and this ¨load of crap¨ was making me think. Unprepared for that, I had begun to walk away from both the sculpture and the unappreciated mental effort, when I noticed myself connecting random thoughts.

Big versus small. Bosses and drones. Business district. 
Personal dreams. Boring business meetings. Corporate power. Black humor.  
Distraction and complacence. Disparities of wealth.  Loss of individuality. Capitalism. 
Tools of the trade. 
Office supplies.

Suddenly Goliath, with his post-it note face and paperclip legs made perfect sense. What better media could there be to embody a contemporary Goliath than these mundane but ubiquitious symbols of business and capitalism?

This artist, Antoni Llena, must have an ironic sense of humor. While lightly acknowledging those of us who have fiddled with or reshaped a paperclip in a moment of distraction at work, he makes a surreal but powerful statement: these days Goliath is a faceless corporation, and David, if he still exists, is all of us pedestrians down below. 

Balance sheet or post-it note?
According to the experts, David i Goliat symbolizes the rebirth of the neglected Somorrostro zone into the thriving neighborhood of Vila Olimpica. Barcelona Free Art states: In the artist's own words, the sculpture is meant, ghostlike, to evoke the billowing "sheets drying on balconies" of the vanished neighbourhood.

What about you?
Have you had a change of heart regarding a public work? If so, I would love to hear about it. Please share your story in the comments section below.