Public art is never static. People, traffic, birds, squirrels, weather and time of day all change things up. Take, for example, Ai Weiwei's 37-foot-high steel cage in Washington Square Park (until February 11, 2018). By day, it was a total selfie magnet for tourists. At night, it ruled the park. Darkness transformed Weiwei's center silhouette (modeled after a 1937 gallery doorway by Marcel DuChamp) into a beckoning giant keyhole. Floodlights on the arch turned park walkers into miniature moving cut-outs. Perhaps the conjoined couple in the cage had just stepped out to explore the world around them? I wondered if they might snap back into place at dawn, like two missing puzzle pieces.
New York City's public art performances are seldom singular. Passersby often jump in with their own twist, like this street mime in gold sequins and metallic face paint perched inside Ai Weiwei's giant Victorian birdcage structure near Trump Tower. With 300 outdoor sculptures installed across five boroughs from October to February, 2018, Weiwei's work— "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" —evoked the global refugee crisis and the divisive nature of borders and walls. The mime wouldn't say, of course, if he was going meta on Weiwei by impishly layering a migrant street performance on a public art performance about migrants. Or was it simply a great spot for tips? I had so many questions and he had so few answers. Just a signaled preference for peace.