[When it comes to parenting, pornography, and Polaroids, Dadwagon’s editors are experts. But art criticism? Not so much. That’s why we called in Carolina A. Miranda, who covers art, design, and architecture for WNYC and blogs at c-monster.net, to tackle the issue that’s been perplexing us: Is the Park Slope Ghost Stroller art?]
As the New York Times reported, the Brooklyn parenting set has its Bugaboos in a twist over the highly mysterious appearance of a “ghost stroller” chained to a post on Union Street, in Park Slope—a neighborhood renowned for being New York City’s most earnest baby-making center. Is it a melancholy tribute to an infant who is no longer with us? Is it an ominous warning to parents who use strollers as traffic-abatement devices? Is it art?
What its purpose might be, I don’t know. Nor, does it seem, does anyone else. But I can report that as an artistic statement, this melodramatic monument is highly derivative. Not only does it clearly take its visual cues from Ghost Bikes— the sculptural series that began sprouting around New York five years ago in memory of slain bike riders—but it follows a long tradition of artists taking some shit and painting it white, from Cy Twombly’s all-white sculptural assemblages to Jasper Johns’s white flag to Günther Uecker’s nails on a canvas board to Robert Ryman’s pallid canvases. And, of course, there is the visual debt to sculptor Charles Long, below, whose 2003 work “Soundly Through the Noise” kinda looks like it could at one point have been a stroller chained to a signpost. (Speaking of which, this little number could be yours simply by dialing the esteemed Tonya Bonakdar Gallery.)
Even if taken less literally, the all-white motif has, by this point, been given a good work-out, incorporated into sprawling installations by the likes of Rachel Whiteread (she even has “white” in her name!) and Teutonic lair-builder Kurt Schwitters. (His stuff was pretty dang rad. Check it out.) To be truly contemporary, the stroller needs a dash of performance (à la artist Nate Hill, who is currently strolling around New York clad head to toe in white). Or it would need to have some detritus loosely arranged on top or at its perimeter, accompanied by a very long, impenetrably written statement about process. Only then, would it be ready for display at the New Museum.
As a non-breeder myself, I personally think this is less art and more of an improvised anxiety device, intended to freak out the already freaked-out. Consider it revenge for all those times you parent types have used your baby strollers as battering rams on the world’s collective shins.