Following the success of our Offspring at the OSP projects, we decided to make a little poignant satire of an unpopular policy that was manifesting at the new outdoor sculpture park. For all of the inherent tactile appeal and climbability of the large sculptures in the free, public setting, the museum became hellbent on keeping their precious artworks pristine and inaccessible from the curious touches of the public and their galavanting children. Rather than siting them apart from through-ways, or roping the pieces off, the museum emplaced sandwich boards declaring "Ouch- even the lightest touch harms the art...Please do not touch!" next to sculptures that were imminently touchable.
Being of the opinion that public sculpture should be, in fact, interactive and durable, PDL felt a call to respond. We acquired a quintessentially interactive and durable object: a playground swing set- painted it white, and had it assembled just west of Calder's Eagle by a trained team of college art students. Dressed in hardhats and jumpsuits. In the middle of a busy day of recreation in the park. On both sides of the swing set, we put signs made to be identical to the ones the park staff had set up to prohibit touching, along with a name plate with the title Ceci n'est pas une Swingset - a nod to Rene Magritte's surrealist painting The Treachery of Images which featured a pipe and words, in French, declaring that it was not a pipe.
Of course, the first thing that the first kid in proximity to the swing set did was run to it and start swinging. And the first thing that the first kid's well-meaning parent had to say was something to the effect of "That's not a swing set, son- you need to get off- the sign says!" Of course, this was as lost on the kid as a call not to touch Richard Serra's rough, rusty Wake or climb around Tony Smith's Stinger- 2 other nearby sculptures at the park. And it was right there within reach, on the grass, like Calder's Eagle.
This confusing scenario played out several times, as security radioed their bosses to figure out how to respond. Ultimately, out of respect to the liability hazard it presented in today's litigious world, we removed the swing set, after an hour of delightfully surreal encounters between it, the public, and the irritated park staff. Incidentally, the "Ouch" signs have variously disappeared, but the battle between what kind of sculpture should be in a public park and how much touching it should be able to withstand continues...