? of the Day: Who controls our conduct in the civic space?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 06/22/2006 - 06:33.

Where is this sculpture? Bonus question... who is the artist?

I was between meetings at a local law firm with a great art collection when it occurred to me I didn't know anything about the sculpture in front of their offices, depicting a small band of symphony musicians playing music... a tribute to our orchestra, I believe. I couldn't learn much about the sculpture because when I went to explore and photography the work, which is in a public seating area surrounded by benches, I was approached by a guard who said the law firm I was visiting had a strict policy against anyone photographing around their offices. I asked the guard why and he said he didn't know, but that was their policy. As a photographer I am always concerned about photographing something near a "homeland security target" like a power plant, where federal forces may mistake me for a terrorist and swoop me away to a prison in Cuba, but in front of a large office building complex containing a law firm, in a public park area... who determines what are the restrictions on the conduct of the public photographing a public sculpture in public? Anyone else ever confronted by security for such seemingly normal public behavior, and where. And where is this sculpture, and what about it must be protected for homeland security? Click read more to see pictures of the setting, which may or may not be illegal... I have no idea whether or not and why.

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Not much worth photographing here anyways!

I know there are much more serious issues at the heart of your posting, but maybe the law firm does n't want anyone photographing this sculpture because its so bad its embarassing! I don't know who the artist is, but I doubt he or she is really to blame. The work is probably just the result of a bad commission and an artist who really need the work. The client commissioning the piece was probably  very conservative with little knowledge of art and thus demanded something too literal. I have always found this work very unappealing, from its location smack in the center of the plaza to its base with the stark white blocks that remind me of a bath tub. The figures are cartoon-like characters in a odd scale that is unsettling -- not quite life size but not small enough to be cute like Otterness scultures. The building itself is cheap and ugly looking, it belongs in Indepence along Rockside Road -- not blocking our lake front.

Rock on Evelyn - the building looks like it is falling apart

The sculpture is very disturbing and the building belongs in Independence - right on. The harm to NEO is even greater than blocking the lakefront as this complex and the Galleria diverted economic development from the Master Plan for Cleveland and so took core value from core downtown to the freeway. Such candid and insightful observation is exactly what we need to protect NEO from further such bad design and planning decisions being made today by bad developers and their champion, the Port Authority.

No reason to photograph or not

I was downtown today so I went back to the plaza where this ugly sculpture is placed to see if there is any signage saying the plaza is private, or that photography is illegal, and if there is any indication who the artist is, if he/she may be called an artist. There is no indication the plaza is private, except that you can't park in the driveway and you can't smoke around the sculpture. And, there is no indication it is a sculpture at all, like a plaque with the name, artist, title and date. I also looked more closely at the sculpture, installation and setting, and perhaps have a reason why they don't want any photography... it's all low class garbage. The sculpture was clearly very expensive to create - lots of cast bronze and patina and polish and pomp - but it is very poorly constructed and falling apart... not in the inspiring deconstructionist way of the Anselm Kiefer at the Cleveland Museum but in the shoddy American garbage in garbage out kinda way that plagues our entire society. The design of the plaza and multi-hundred-million dollar complex is low grade and all the tiles are cracking, the grout coming loose, the windows streaked with run-off from cheap construction materials and pollution, all built by careless workers rather than craftspeople. Because construction with low quality is impossible to maintain much less upgrade, this modern plaza is already obsolete and Class B at best, despite lots of spit polish to make the rotten apple shine. When you stand back and look from this cheap complex to the cheap complexes around there - the Galleria, etc. - versus City Hall, and the Free Stamp, you realize what harm the planners and developers of our lifetime have caused our coming generations - all this recent development will need to be demolished in the coming decades, along with all of Independence and Beechwood and the other mindless new suburbs built so poorly. The really sad observation is the law firm at the core of all this used to be in the beautiful Huntington Building on Euclid Avenue, in an historic and eternal building worth always preserving, surrounded by other quality buildings worth preserving, even as we must tear down the crap build since good development ended in NEO around the time of the depression. So, when you hear about Wolstein and Stark coming into Cleveland and tearing down some of our few remaining historic buildings to build crap like they build in the suburbs, remember they are bad developers who do bad work - visit Rennaissance Plaza in Playhouse Square (Wolstein), or any WalMart of KMart plaza around town (probably Wolstein or Stark) to reinforce your understanding how crappy they are, and then write to Steven Litt at slitt [at] plaind [dot] com to support his campaign for good planning and architecture in NEO (it is your fault we have bad design, because you don't speak out and show you care), and post your perspectives on REALNEO to show the world you care. Start speaking out for good planning and design, and against the suburban developers further destroying our core valuable historic urban fabric.

TRY PHOTOGRAPHING POLICE!

 

These no photo rules are paranoid - because with a concealed camera (Samsung sports cam) or a good telephoto, you can get the entire scene in detail anyway.  If you can shoot it from a public right of way. their complaint is vacuous.  I have had a similar reaction shooting a high end women’s clothing store manikin display in London from inside the store while my wife shopped.  Pretty weird.
 
But my most explosive reaction was from the police when I focused on them in front of my lens while they were interviewing a repo man who had been attempting to trespass on a nearby property.  The police told me to put my camera away - I reacted – flabbergasted - with a request on what they based their demand on.  No answer.  If you are on a public space - you can shoot anything you can see.  Get a helicopter, and you can shoot even more.   Then there are satellites.

Media credentials for REALNEO photographers

Under current situations I would never attempt to photograph any sort of government worker or facilities - not because that makes sense but because America has been drive by extremist rhetoric into such a state of neurotic paranoia I do not expect rational behavior from any Americans, especially those in authority and/or with guns. We thus need to make arrangements for photo credentials for anyone who wants to shoot pictures for REALNEO - we will file whatever paperwork we need to establish official press and photographer credentials from every possible authority for every possible use, and we will issue press passes and when needed request specific media access to events. Charles, who photographs for REALNEO and is the leader of the NEO Digital Photo SIG, and Phillip, who can get to the bottom of anything, will be in charge of making this work right. Please post here or contact me at realneo [at] inbox [dot] com if you want REALNEO media credentials and we will help you with this.