Having lived in Washington for 15 years, I’ve come to view the Washington City Paper as a reliable source of knee-jerk contrariness, and Tom Scocca’s commentary on the “Party Animals” public art project (“Asses for the Masses,” 5/17) sustains that view. Scocca clearly enjoyed pooh-poohing the project, but perhaps the more than 200 individuals (including myself) who spent many long hours working on the animals deserve a bit more than his lazy, sneering contempt.
First, I’ll stipulate a few things: Many hokey ideas were conceived and executed on the animals, certainly many that would not pass the sniff test of the fashionably cynical. There is some repetition of ideas and themes. There are limitations to animal art. But I do not think that means the whole idea should have been shelved, nor do I think that, once begun, the entire project should have been stopped owing to the Greens’ feeling left out.
If the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities did, in fact, maintain that the elephants and donkeys were “neutral symbols,” as Scocca says, then I’ll be the first to accuse it of disingenuousness, at best. But it would be equally wrongheaded to accuse the commission of sanctioning the two-party system. Let’s face it: The choice of the party symbols is a reflection, rather than an endorsement, of political reality, and we mustn’t invest the elephants and donkeys with too much meaning. There are much bigger fish to fry, so to speak, such as the unacceptable lack of voting representation in Congress for D.C. residents. I’m just not sure that that needs to be the concern of the arts commission.
And, while Scocca complains about the “feel-good” nature of the project (does everything have to be feel-bad?), there are, I can assure him, other pieces that—if he looked closely—do in fact skewer and subvert the political system, and not just Laure Drogoul’s excellent piece, Florida Hybrid.
So, instead of getting all exercised about a bit of harmless fun—which is exactly what the “Party Animals” project is—let’s instead save our wrath for the true enemies of D.C. and of democracy, for vile people like John Ashcroft and Tom DeLay.
And while the “Party Animals” project may not be everyone’s idea of exemplary public art, let’s at least acknowledge that there are some lovely, well-executed, and clever designs out there on our streets, harming no one and delighting many.