Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Giant Floating Naked Man (May 16, 2007)

These pictures were taken on my first solo stroll through Milan. I had the luck to encounter some very interesting public art during my explorations--well, either I was lucky or Milan is just an artsy place, and I'm inclined to believe the latter.

I ended up at Parco Sempione, the park that opens out behind the Castello Sforzesco. Walking out into the park I turned to the right, following signs that seemed to lead to a public aquarium; but I wandered down the wrong path and ended up over next to the Arena Civica Gianni Brera. Soon I saw something unusual that seemed to be hovering just above the trees, and I made my ways towards it:

I admit it was a bit startling, seeing this large pink nude fellow simply drifting calmly in the gentle breeze. It certainly seemed, from a distance especially, that he wasn't held in place at all--just lolling randomly, though bobbing a bit as the tension on his tethering cables occasionally dragged him down slightly.

I found it strange (for some reason) that he wasn't making any sound. This was the first time I remembered the video function on my camera and put it to work. I lay back on the grass and pointed it into the air, and managed to capture something of the real-life effect:

The only sounds come from the birds, the breeze, and the quiet thrum of traffic (though a there is the loudly distinctive sound of an Italian ambulance blaring by in the background).

Here is a close-up shot, showing the, er, anatomical detail of the piece. I was impressed by the way the skin had been articulated, wrinkles and all; he even had stubble on his chin.

My timing was fortuitous. As I sat watching, the floating body began to bob and sink gently, and I realised they were 'reeling him in'. I had a pretty good view of the process from where I was sitting nearby, on a small knoll. I noticed that many of the cables hanging from him were designed to keep him weighted down in a certain more-or-less horizontal position--most of them didn't reach to the ground.

I enjoyed sitting in the sun, watching this spectacle unfold before me...

Of course I was keen to find out what this art piece was and who the artist might have been, but then never got around to finding out--until I set out to write this blog post. The first link in English was unexpectedly provided by FOX News, where the piece was described as "a [70-foot-long] balloon self-portrait by Polish artist Pawel Althamer". The piece was part of a show being held in the Palazzina Appiani, the building that can be seen in the background in my last photo above.

That's probably the most creative (and certainly the most eye-catching) self-portrait I've ever seen.

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