If at first you don't succeed, Tré, Tré again
Brooklyn-based artist Tré Reising's second attempt at a public art piece for Indianapolis International Airport is set to be installed today. The first one was censored. His initial piece, #Belieb, a glittery homage to pop culture, the pervasive hashtag, and, of course, the Biebs himself, was set for installation at the airport back in February of this year. Its planned installation, part of a public art initiative during which the piece would be displayed for three months, was cancelled in part because the airport thought the intrinsic irony of the work would be lost on an audience that consists of a very broad general public. It was also at a time when Justin Bieber was front and center in the entertainment news after a series of shenanigans including throwing eggs at a neighbor's house.
The new work, which is sarcastically titled Live, Love, Laugh, Laugh Until You Cry, continues Reising's use of internet slash pop culture (because where is the line, really?) imagery:
This time the ubiquitous Emoji comes to the fore, and just like #Belieb does, the piece alludes to the new shorthand for not just words, but emotions--a shorthand inextricably linked to the younger generation(s). If it wasn't so closely associated with teenagers, there wouldn't be articles like this. The thing about the Emoji is that it is (or they are), essentially, emotionless. They contain nothing of our own individual feelings. A sad face, a crazy face, a big grin -- they're the same for everyone in every situation. They're another way to try to make ourselves felt in a virtual place, yet Reising grasps the irony of this in that, after they're used over and over and over again, they lose all meaning.
Public art is an area fraught with weirdness. It's art for the masses, taken out of the museum or the white cube and put onto the sidewalks and the sides of buildings. It's often pretty, and meant to beautify and bring joy, as opposed to provoking any sort of critical discourse. It risks coming across as scaled back, often stale, to please everybody -- whatever that means. This sort of piece is prime for public display in a place like an airport where anyone and everyone is going to see it. Some won't think twice, but some might pay attention. The irony will be lost on most. It's incredibly unlikely to offend. But that's the joy of it -- if this artwork were just plain fun, that would be enough. It's a great piece of art because there's more than meets the eye.