I try not to be negative. People do their best, they mean well, our lives are enriched by all human effort.
But still, it’s hard to appreciate some of the ‘art’ projects that have emerged in town over the last few months. Funded from a county-wide project, they appear to be self-conscious and, well, ‘arty’, if you know what I mean. I like a lot of contemporary art, and I can take a bit of wierdness, but (there’s a wonderful Swedish word which says it for me) I’d have to describe them as basically ‘flummig’. That’s kind of floaty, new-agey, a lot of words that don’t amount to very much.
Take for instance, ‘Hypaethral’, by Nadine Byrne. It’s a sculpture, that was put up in a park in town, in the shape of a geodesic dome (a building shape popular in alternative communities in the US, we’re told). ‘It’s a room’, says the artist, and in this room you can experience ‘the sounds of Kiruna’. The sound of the mine, the sound of the city hall clock, the sound of the railway.
I’m trying, I really am, but tell me: if I live here and hear these sounds every day, how does it enrich my life to go into a dome shape out in the park and hear them again? It’s a puzzle.
On the other hand, over the last few months I’ve taken enormous pleasure in the mysterious appearance of some reindeer. Wandering around town you can unexpectedly find yourself face to face with reindeer that weren’t there yesterday, in outline or fully shaped, usually in bright colours (pink, blue, green, red). You turn a corner and may not see it, but then, out the corner of your eye, there, up on the wall, a blue reindeer. If you look down there may be reindeer outlines on the pavement in front of you. Reindeer locking antlers in battle in the street. Reindeer running in a line along a roof. A reindeer half buried underground so only the bottom half shows, and elsewhere a reindeer half buried in the underground, looking up at the sky.
I don’t know what they ‘mean’, if anything, or where they come from – nor do I much care. Their creator(s) have remained anonymous, though the rumour is that they’re a group of local companies. The reindeer sculptures make me look twice at a street, and they remind me of the value of doing things for their own sake. And they make me smile. It’s art that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you don’t need to be part of ‘a culturally-minded community’ to enjoy it.
Better still, as the snow has come, the reindeer have begun to disappear. I’m not pleased if you can’t see them, but I like that they’ll blend into our natural world, like the real thing, and may even become invisible. If we’ve noticed them, we’ll know they’re there and we’ll imagine the parts we can’t see. That’s art.