If you live in Portland, and you've heard of the horse project, and you've ever wondered if it'll still be around in a few years, here's your answer. And that answer would be "no". Installing cute 'lil toy horses on our fair city's old horse-n-buggy rings is Art with a capital A. Going around replacing the broken ones every so often is Work. With a capital W. It's as exciting as mowing your lawn, and almost as creative. Someday the tedium will just be too much to bear, and the little ponies will go the way of the Church of Elvis.
There's more about the sidewalk ponies here, and another photo (not by me) here, and another (also not by me) here. Oh, and more photos here, especially this one. (D'oh!) And just so we're all clear on this, despite my earlier mildly disparaging comments, I'm not actually in favor of people going around breaking anyone's art. While I can understand how all this aren't-we-special smugness could generate a backlash in short order, I'm absolutely not going to participate. Whether you agree with the artistic goals or not, vandalism just isn't very nice, I guess is what I'm trying to say here. Schadenfreude, on the other hand, is great fun, especially when the target's worked so hard to earn it. Quirkiness is fine. Deliberate, calculated quirkiness is kind of annoying. Add "cutesy" to the mix, and it's lethally aggravating. You could argue that I'm just being snarky and disagreeable about the ponies, which is probably true. Sadly, it is my way.
[If you're curious about the title of this post, it's a reference to an earlier post of mine, which in turn plays off of Slashdot's big April Fool gag for the year. It's not a very good title, is it?]
In any case, it's possible that the vandalism might, just might be an artistic act in itself. If artists never rebelled against other artists, we'd still be stuck with stupid bozotic allegorical paintings of Biblical scenes and Roman myths and fauns and cherubim and crap. So please, rebel, if you must. Just remember that if the public (i.e. myself, and anyone else who hasn't gone to grad school) supports you, or understands you, even, you aren't really rebelling, now are you? Let me appeal to our fair city's permanent inferiority complex: In a real city (i.e. Paris, Berlin, NYC, etc.), this would have still happened, but it would've happened for a reason. I mean, a reason other than "Whoa. Dude, let's break that."
(I should note that I have a sad history of misidentifying quite ordinary objects and actions as conceptual art. So perhaps I'm not a reliable authority on the subject. Still, you have to admit the world would be far more interesting if I was right more often.)
Some people (and I'm not one of them) might think this picture is Art as well. See, this horse is/was across the street from the mmm-tasty Pearl Bakery, in the heart of the artsy-pretencey Pearl District. I was walking by and decided to take a picture, because, well, the horse was broken and I thought it was funny. While I was doing so, a dumpy middle-aged couple wandered past, watching me closely. The way they were gawking, they must've been from the burbs, or from out of town, or they were rich Californians who'd just bought a gazillion-dollar condo in the Pearl. Apparently they thought they were observing an artiste in his natural habitat, like they were visiting the zoo, or witnessing the creation of the universe:
Woman: Huh. Wow. I wonder what he's thinking about...?
Man: Hoof... broken....
And after that, an extended, slackjawed gape. Evidently, not only did they mistake me for an artist (the idiots), they also thought I was deaf. And blind. Which would be a real feat for a photographer, if I was one, which I'm not. I'm curious how they came to believe all that, but no matter. They continued watching me as they walked by, craning their necks to make sure they saw the crucial moment where I actually took this astonishing photo. And maybe they got their wish. I don't know; I wasn't paying attention at that point. Freakin' parasites. I mean, from the dialogue I heard it sounded like they'd possibly gotten the gist, or an inkling of the gist, of why I was taking the picture. But still. If you really want to know, be a civilized person and ask me directly, and I'll (pretend to) be happy to (attempt to) talk to you about it (maybe). Either do that, or shut the fuck up.
Updated: It turns out that the Pearl Bakery location is a serious hot spot for plastic pony vandalism. Which sounds just absolutely dreadful, at least if you ignore the fact that three or four blocks directly east of here it's wall-to-wall hookers and crack dealers and drive-by shootings. Perspective can be a real bitch sometimes.
Updated 9/1/10: Linkage + a photo credit from a blog called "The Sky Pukes Rainbow". Ok, cool, that seems to fit somehow.
I'm not sure if the sidewalk ponies are still around these days as I haven't been looking lately and don't get over to the Pearl as often as I once did. The Church of Elvis, however, has returned. I didn't really expect to ever see that when I wrote this post.