“I’ll meet you at the big red thing,” one Occupy Wall Streeter was heard saying into his cell phone-the “thing” being Mark di Suvero’s 1997 work Joie de Vivre. That same big red thing also became the perch for a rogue protestor, 21-year-old Dylan Spoelstra of Canada, who climbed the 70-foot-tall sculpture early on Saturday morning and refused to come down until New York’s Mayor Bloomberg resigned. Three hours later he decamped for Bellevue and a psychiatric evaluation.
The totemic sculpture, situated at one end of Zuccotti Park, has been a beacon amid the clutter of the amorphous, anti-greed movement whose members are camped out in the small park, which was heavily damaged in 9/11 and was for a while known as Liberty Park. Another silent sentry in the midst of the action is Isamu Noguchi’s monumental Red Cube (1968), just across the street, on the plaza of 140 Broadway, a protestor’s shout away.
An illustration accompanying a “Talk of the Town” piece in the Oct. 17 New Yorker even depicts the di Suvero work in a montage of placard-carrying protestors, but the article makes no mention of it. The sculpture, resembling intersecting Vs or tripods stood on one end, was sited in 2006, a gift of Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art. It is the artist’s first permanent public work in New York.
With some critics lamenting that OWS so far lacks a musical anthem, an integral component of the social movements of yore, will Joie perhaps become its visual icon, the peace sign of our times? Or will distracting and credibility-detracting antics like Spoelstra’s and Occupy Artists Space derail what should be a serious conversation?