Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Grass Roots Square

Grass Roots Square 6I heard about an exhibit at the corner of Teatergata and Munchs gate called Grass Roots Square. The artist is Do Ho Suh of Korea, not someone I am familiar with. Wikipedia says he explores the relationship between individuality, collectivity, and anonymity. This exhibit was jury selected and in his submission to the jury, Do-Ho says "Grass Roots Square is at ground level, the same level of the plaza and the public. It is at this level, the grass roots level, where you can truly understand a community."

I thought I would stop by and have a look.

Do-Ho Suh started working in the outer corner of the square and worked inwards a short ways. The tree is part of the exhibit and was planted at the time the sculptures were installed.

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Business today consists in persuading crowds. ~ T.S. Elliot

The green you see amongst the stonework are small bronze figurines and they very much look like grass sprouting up.

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Youth doesn't need friends - it only needs crowds. ~ Zelda Fitzgerald

The figures are quite detailed and I couldn't see any repeated figures, although I am not certain they are all unique.

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The 'wisdom of the crowds' is the most ridiculous statement I've heard in my life. Crowds are dumb. ~ Drew Curtis

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With the crowds on your side, it's easier to play up to your potential. - Julius Erving

In some cases, the figures are underneath the stones. In others, they are in the open. A few even line the seams between the stones.

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The future belongs to crowds. ~ Don DeLillo

The tree is a nice touch and blends in with the sculpture.

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The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it. ~ Terry Pratchett

When photographing a small subject like this, I have to be careful about perspective. Perspective is a funny thing. We need something to give us a reference, a sense of scale, which depends upon perspective. In this shot, there is only the tree, but since we do not know how big the tree is, it is difficult to judge the size of the figures.

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"If everyone you knew jumped off a bridge, would you too?” Dr. Roger asked.

David had heard this before and knew you were supposed to say no. But was that really true? If everyone jumped off a bridge, maybe there was a good reason. Maybe the bridge was on fire. If anything, the guy who didn’t jump was the crazy one.
~ John M. Cusick

If I add a person to the composition, then you usually get a much better idea of the size. However, in this case the person is so far away as to appear to be the same height as the figures!

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And this that you call solitude is in fact a big crowd. ~ Dejan Stojanovic

If I add in a person very close to the figures, then you have a much better sense of how small they are. In this case, they appear downright Lilliputian!

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I walked with them, as crowds have that effect on me, I want to do what they do, to journey towards some point of revelation, which of course never comes. ~ Neil Jordan

The exhibit is quite popular, judging by the number of people who stop by to look and to take some snaps. Which included me, of course!

Grass Roots Square
We are more wicked together than separately. If you are ever forced to be in a crowd, then most of all you should withdraw into yourself. Never trust another to do your thinking. ~ Jeff Wheeler

Do-Ho Suh's work is brilliantly executed; the figures are really neat, and are done on a scale that is really interesting. But overall, I did not get the sense of community he said he was trying to achieve. When I think of community, I think of working together to move things forward. I think activity, motion. I did not think of that when I looked at this work.

Instead, I saw people aimlessly standing around waiting for something to happen. I saw crowds. I don't have very pleasant thoughts when I think of crowds. I have trouble with how crowds behave and how they think. Even in the workplace I have trouble with "group think", and I find the term common sense deeply offensive.

Whenever anyone says to me that something is "only common sense", I point out that "common" sense once held that people were not meant to fly, that "common" sense used to dictate that the world was flat, that it was "only common sense" that the sun, the moon, and the stars all revolved around the Earth, and that "common sense" used to allow women to be burned at the stake because "common sense" said they were witches.

I suspect that my own biases got in the way of finding the community theme Do-Ho was trying to impart. This made me think about my own work and how people perceive it. I'm pretty confident that not everyone reacts positively to all of my photographs, or even has a reaction at all! I came up with my own mnemonic for keeping this lesson in mind as I work. It is a twist on a famous photographer's quote: "Every photograph needs two people; the photographer and the viewer."*

*The original quote is from Ansel Adams. He said: “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”

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