Some may have noticed a small change, if you’ll forgive the expression, in the installation at 208 E. State Street, “Finanz krise/Crise financière/Crisi finanziaria.” An element in the assembly that had been provided by American Arts and Crafts has sold. This was a steel wine bottle holder in the shape of a dog.
I had been anxious about how to approach an installation on the Commons, not wanting to do any “plop art” that paid little or no attention to the specificities of the site. So, I spent a lot of time walking up and down the Commons, attempting to figure out precisely what the aesthetics of this place had to offer me in terms of a visual language. How would I be able to manifest something within the Commons that would be both outside of it (that is, be legible as a difference, however slight) and continuous with it? Which is to say, how could I fit into the Commons, and make something that thinks with the Commons? The relationship between thinking and acting was on my mind, particularly thinking and acting as it related to the marketplace.
At the time, I was reading Hannah Arendt’s Life of the Mind, where she ponders the ways and means to bring thinking out of hiding, to “tease it into manifestation”:
“The best, in fact the only, way I can think of to get a hold of the question is to look for a model, an example of a thinker who was not a professional, who in his person unified two apparently contradictory passions (...) Best suited for this role would be a man who counted himself neither among the many nor among the few, who had no aspiration to be a ruler of men, no claim even to be particularly well fitted by his superior wisdom to act in an advisory capacity to those in power, but not a man who submitted meekly to being ruled either; in brief, a thinker who always remained a man among men, who did not shun the marketplace, who was a citizen among citizens, doing nothing, claiming nothing except what in his opinion every citizen should be and have the right to. Such a man ought to be difficult to find: if he were able to represent for us the actual thinking activity, he would not have left a body of knowledge behind; he would not have cared to write down his thoughts even if, after he was through with thinking, there had been any residue tangible enough to set out in black and white.”
Arendt is of course describing Socrates. I was thinking of another philosopher of the marketplace: “I am Diogenes the Dog. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy, and bite scoundrels.”