2007 outpost—a civic monument

a proposal for outpost

a civic monument for an inactive or underused room or space located

within a public court building of the City of New York


 outpost is a sculpture that occupies the center of a space, giving the impression of being a place within a space. It is a platform on which precariously stands a podium. Surrounding the platform is a system of ropes and stanchions that seem either to direct or to prevent approach to the podium. Cut into the platform, surrounding the podium are speaker and speaker-like impressions. Although alluding to the existence of amplified sound, the work is in fact silent—the enveloping type of silence that occupies a space of contemplation.

I am proposing to site this sculpture in an interior space within the court system of lower Manhattan. It is a work that takes on a multitude of interconnected meanings when considered in the context of this form of civic placement, as I will describe in brief below:

A platform, a podium, an amplification system—the sculpture speaks of potential. The potential of projecting voice and ultimately being heard. Because it is physically silent it avails the opportunity for the viewer to fill in the blank—to fill in or imagine the position of being at, or the nature of the voice coming from, the podium. What one has to say, wants to say, accompanied by the possibility of being heard. There is the witnessing of the podium, of hearing, or listening to what is being spoken, being told. The silence references or reinforces both the potential and the dilemma of this situation. It is the anxious anticipation inherent in expressing one’s voice when at the podium, at being the center of attention. It is the profundity of such a position of agency—unoccupied—in silence. The platform is not only the place upon which one speaks but also the bases upon which one speaks. It is a position of access.

Because the work remains open to individual interpretation outpost becomes a deeply personal work. It becomes different things to different people depending on circumstance, on history, on inclination. And because in this proposal it would occupy a truly civic space—a room in the court building— it addresses architectonically a keystone of the republic, that is the right of the individual to speak and to be heard. Sited in such a place outpost transforms into a civic monument—one that takes on its full implication or meaning when placed within the subjectivity of court system itself.

As a visitor I have scouted the court buildings for a space.  All areas open to the public are high use areas that would clearly be inappropriate as a space for such an installation— but I continued to imagine that within the massive architectural structures that are the court system of Lower Manhattan there must be a space to the side, currently underused, that might be made temporarily available for such an endeavor. A space that would in fact be perfect for this work. A space that could be opened to accommodate public access. My hope is that with submission of this proposal to you such a space might be identified.

The platform of the sculpture measures 10 x 10 x 6 feet. The materials are welded steel, cast rubber, speakers (silent), stanchions and rope. It would occupy a space of about 30 x 30 feet, which could be located within a larger room or hall.  Although the work is certainly durable enough it is not meant to be walked on, rather to be viewed by circumambulating.  Access to the work would be made available during building hours; directed from various locations by discreet signage and by an individual mailing to members of the extended community.

Of course the public for this sculpture will be primarily those who come and go on a daily or one time basis within the building for its intended purpose. I would like the work to remain installed up to 6 months which is the standard permit duration for a temporary public work of art from other city agencies. This is also a span of time which allows the public to come to know and become internally familiar with a public work. A shorter duration would suffice if need be, however this is not my preference.

One of the great amenities of public projects is that people come to know it over time as they go about their daily routine. This affords a deeper insight into the experience of the work and the place within which it sits over time. Over time, when passed by day by day, a work transfigures in one’s mind and at its best provides prophetic insight. The presence of this work at such a location, within the architecture of the court system, holds the capacity for such a transformative experience.

The artist understands issues of maintenance and will take the full responsibility to maintain the physical appearance of the space during the installation.

 May 2007