Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Brooklyn Bridge White American Flags: If No One Gets It, Is It Still Art?

The Brooklyn Bridge Flag Caper: Sensational, but was it art? Photo by MK Metz
Two wacky Germans have brought the eternal question -- What the heck is art, anyway? -- back to the forefront this summer.

You probably remember the fuss when, overnight on July 21/22, two white flags appeared mysteriously on the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge.

German artists Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke, who laid low until the dust settled a bit, took credit on Tuesday and supplied a short video to the New York Times showing the white flags flapping at night, from the perspective of the top of a tower.

The artists said the flag stunt date was set to honor German engineer John Roebling, who moved to America and designed the Brooklyn Bridge. He died on July 22, 1869. (His son Washington Roebling died on July 21, 1926.)

Like so many artists who create inexplicable art, the duo produced a press release that said, "Like an empty canvas, White American Flags invites many readings, multiple interpretations and projections."

Right . . .

If an art is created but nobody knows it's art, is it art?

We asked international expert Google, "What is art?"

Google told us: Art is "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."

By this definition, the flags might be considered art, or at least art-ish.

Tolstoy, on the other hand, thought people looking at art had to "get it."

According to Wikipedia, Tolstoy said that the artist: "hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings, and also experience them."

By that measure, since nobody had the slightest idea what these flags meant, they were a massive fail, art-wise. (The main interpretations elicited were, "WTF," or some riff on, "Brooklyn hipsters/bikers surrender.")

Not one single person in the entire world said anything close to, "This here art is a tribute to the bridge's German designers." 

Art or not, Kristian Roebling, the great-great-great-grandson of John Roebling who lives in DUMBO, thinks the stunt was kinda cool, the sort of thing "having a tequila or two" might facilitate.

Go to McBrooklyn's HOME PAGE.

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