Omaha Government Displays Pretentious Concrete Donuts: Is Dog Poop Next?


  The city of Omaha is forcing its citizens to endure four concrete donuts that are sometimes called "Sounding Stones" and sometimes called "art."  Source of photo: online version of  Dane Stickney.  "ART MOVEMENT; Some neighbors don’t want sculpture in Elmwood Park."  Omaha World-Herald  (Sat., Nov. 17, 2007):  B1.


I believe that all art should be private art.  But if the government is going to force art on us, at least they should commission art that most find enjoyable to look at. 

Tom Wolfe in The Painted Word skewered the pretension of modern "artists" whose "art" is not intended to please, but is intended to make some obscure philosophical point. 

If somebody wants to privately finance such activity, fine.  But don’t force the rest of us to finance it through taxation.


 (p. 1B)  “So is this where they’re putting Stonehenge?”
  Stan Hille was walking his dog through Elmwood Park when he stopped to ask me the question. He thought I was a city employee.

  “Yes, it is,” I said as I stood near one of the gravel pads awaiting Leslie Iwai’s gigantic five-piece sculpture “Sounding
Stones .” “But you don’t sound excited.”
  “Well, I guess I’m not,” he said, stopping to contemplate art. 
“This thing just reminds me of that old question: ‘When is art not art?’ ” Hmm. Great question. Ancient question. I suggested it might not be art until people, especially a commission of people, tells you it’s art. Or, if it’s big, it’s art. Or, if you make something and then say there’s some meaning to it, then maybe it’s art.
  As we pondered, Hille’s dog defecated.

  “Perhaps if I can find some meaning in this poop, then maybe it’s art,” I told him as I rubbed my chin.

  The retired UNO professor and Dundee resident absorbed my genius. “Perhaps,” he responded, rubbing his chin also.

  But, alas, I could find no meaning. “Perhaps its lack of meaning is its meaning,” I then argued, sounding
not unlike French philosopher Jacques Derrida. “It’s post-postmodern ironic poop.” 

. . .

 For Hille and others around Elmwood Park, the bigger question seems to be aesthetics.
  Elmwood Park is a quiet forest setting. Is this really the place for large chunks of concrete, no matter what they mean?

  “It just doesn’t seem to fit,” Hille said.

  I’m with him on that. “Sounding
” might make more sense, or at least be better received, in the midst of, say, modern architecture, not nature.
  You know, perhaps put it downtown, where it could look like it fell off the old Union Pacific building.

  But if “Sounding
Stones ” does end up in Elmwood Park, whichit most likely will, I’m guessing it still will end up being a positive move.
  Because, as with Hille and me, it’s going to get people thinking and talking about art.

  And even when you’re looking at dog droppings, taking time out of the day to contemplate art can’t be a completely bad thing.


Yes, Robert, it can be "a completely bad thing" if you have alternative uses for your time.


For the full commentary, see:

Robert Nelson.  "Rocky art may lead to heavy thoughts."  Omaha World-Herald  (Nov. 21, 2007):  1B.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)


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