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Controversy and Public Art

There are towns all over Italy that have towers in them. The only one we know about is the one that is leaning.

If a peace pole is going to gain a space in the consciousness of a community, something about it must cause that. Size, substance, design and landscaping are effective, but if everything is on center and as expected, it is unlikely to do it as well as when something is not.

Peace poles should be meeting places that are more interesting and more fun than they usually are. Creating something that might appear to be a mistake, or might just be very unusual, possibly in a place where you'd want to sit and think, possibly about peace, can go a long way toward enabling a peace pole to do its job.

How much more attention would people pay to a peace pole if it were leaning? They might hate it at first, like the public hated the Eifel Tower.

From a petition against the coming construction of the Eiffel Tower

"We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection . . . of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower."

Social scientists say that there never has been a mass movement that did not have an enemy. Public art can be that. It can mobilize people on both sides in a way that gives it a larger presence in the consciousness of the community than it otherwise would have.

In the middle of Paris's harmonious, low-rise, limestone facades the Eiffel Tower was a sky scraping tangle of exposed plumbing that was hated by enough people to mobilize people on the other side. Fighting for something creates loyalty and affection. The more people on one side hated it, the more people on the other rose to defend it, and love it.

I'm not pitching having a peace pole lean, although it might be worth thinking about. But I am pitching figuring out something that could cause people to talk about it, hear about it, remember it, and perhaps motivate a few to go there just to see it - something that could give it a place in the local culture that would make it more than a decoration. Like flying pigs in Cincinnati. A sculptor put a few on top of a gate as a nod to a time in history when Cincinnati was known nationally as Porkopolis because of all the swineherding and meat packing there. Railed against at first, even by the mayor, and almost removed from the gate by an act of the city council but for a show of force by the public in a council meeting, they now are a beloved icon embraced by the whole city. The originals are up high. They are not that big. Most people walking through that gate don't notice them. That would have been their whole story, a mostly unnoticed decoration, if not for the controversy.

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