Sunday, August 30, 2009

Vanishing Art: The disappearance of Art in Transit's "Permanent" installations

The View From Here by Ellen Driscoll.  Photo by Frippy

In early May of this year I was surprised to see a Metro work crew dismantling the art installation at the Forest Park - Debaliviere MetroLink station. The work entitled: The View From Here by artist Ellen Driscoll was installed on the south concrete retaining wall of the station in 2006. The station, while open since 1993 for the first MetroLink line was reconstructed and expanded for the opening of the Cross County extension in August 2006.

I emailed David Allen, Director of Metro's Arts In Transit, and he said that the installation was being removed at the artist's request due to problems with the installation. He said that they were discussions with the artist about a possible replacement piece. Indeed there were a few of the mirrored tiles that had fallen off from the concrete wall and presumably were destroyed upon impact below. Of the hundreds of tiles that made up the piece however these appeared to be isolated. It seems like it would have been quite feasible to fabricate replacement pieces rather than to destroy the entire work. The process of removal of the work involved chiseling what had intended to be permanently installed tiles glued to the concrete. From the photos of the removal, it is clear that nothing of the work survived.

Removal of The View From Here in May 2009

I always liked this piece for its interesting geometric patterns and the varied reflections that one could see in the mirrored surfaces. Without The View, the big blank concrete retaining walls give the Forest Park station a drab and lifeless feel. Hopefully an equally interesting work of art will be installed in its absence. With Metro struggling to keep basic Metro Bus and MetroLink service up and running, it is likely that this will not take place anytime soon.

Farther east, in the tunnel under Kingashighway and the WU-BJC Medical Center, another Arts in Transit installation appears to still exist, but has not functioned in quite some time. The work by artist Olafur Eliasson installed in 2000 consisted of 60 tubes, containing different colored lights ranging across the color spectrum, mounted to the tunnel wall in a pattern of gentle horizontal waves. Unfortunately, the lights have been out on the work for at least a year. Arts in Transit's web site says that the work was made possible "through the generous support of BJC Health Systems and the special coordination of the St. Louis Art Museum". I find it interesting that work is coming to completion on the new $235 million (just $15m short of a $1/4 billion) BJC institute of Health at Washington University directly over the MetroLink tunnel just east of Eliasson's work and yet nothing seems to be done to fix what is probably a simple electrical problem to make the art work function again. Once again as seems typical here in St. Louis public art takes a back seat.

Photos from Arts in Transit


Janet Grace Riehl said...

I love your blog and photos. It's so evocative of a vanishing way of life and values.

It used to be the vanishing West. But, now? The vanishing icons of a thriving metropolis.

Janet Riehl

Ryan said...

I e-mailed Hoang Nguyen, Project Manager at Arts and Transit, about the lights. The e-mail I got back:

"Thank you for your email! Yes, the lights are still there and the construction seems to be affecting the power to the lights. We try to get them lit up when we hear that they’ve been affected from construction, however, as soon as we get them on, they get affected again. They will be turned back on after construction is completed.



I believe construction is supposed to be finished in December.

Vanishing STL said...

Thanks Ryan! Good to know. I hope they do get the lights back on at years end.