Sunday, 19 October 2008

Polar Bear Plea Makes for "Explosive" Art

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Artist Mark Jenkins, best known for his packing tape models, has recently been causing another stir on the streets – this time in Washington DC. Motorists were surprised to see a somewhat disheveled looking Polar Bear signaling his distress to the passing traffic. The bear was one of a series of life-sized installations which were scattered around the city. The aim was to call attention to the plight of the Polar bears, who are losing enormous areas of their habitat due to global warming. Each year the ice on which they live is gradually diminishing and this is threatening the whole species.


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Born in Fairfax, Virginia, in 1970, the American artist is now living in Washington and chose his home turf to unleash his latest creations on the world. He is most widely known for his street installations using packing tape. His first major project in 2003 was known as “Tape Men” in which life sized casts of his body (used making clear tape) were set up in city streets, starting out in Rio de Janeiro. The polar bears were intended to draw the attention of people to the issue of melting arctic ice.


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After being questioned by Parks Police, Carroll Muffett of Greenpeace carries the fifth homeless polar bear in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 17, 2008. The police were less than impressed with the polar bear heads and ragged clothing on the human figures, used to convey a sense of displacement and homelessness. To avoid a vagrancy charge, the bear had to move on!


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Can't a bear get any peace around here?


Jenkins’ next project (in 2005) was the controversial Storker Project, in which tape babies were installed on streets all over the world. The project is ongoing and so far there have been over one hundred babies “delivered” on to various streets and sidewalks. The reaction to the polar bears, however, was immediate and unequivocal. They were universally loved! Maybe not by the police, but by all the others who saw them.


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The polar bears are far “friendlier” as it were, as they are deliberately cute. Many people liked them and they soon became a popular destination for people to take their kids to have their pictures taken. Above, the fourth homeless polar bear in the series gets a hug from students on their way to school on Irving Street in Washington, D.C


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Whole gangs of people queued up to have their pitcures taken with the polar protestor. Rather bemused-looking by all of the attention, the ursine vagrant took everything in his stride and calmly conducted his business while at the center of attention.


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One of the bears was even positioned outside of the Capitol. Disheveled but standing proud, the bear managed to get his message across in to the evening.


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He even managed to get a few hours sleep before being moved on - yet again! Even the most ardent of environmental activists have to call it a day and get some shut-eye at some point.


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Unfortunately, the final bear caused something more of a stir. Authorities believed it to be a “suspicious package” and a local train station had to be abandoned for a few hours while a bomb disposal squad investigated the polar bear. It is unusual for terrorists (urban or otherwise) to go out of their way to signify the presence of explosive devices, but the authorities felt it best to be safe rather than sorry. That is probably something akin to what the real polar bears feel.


Written by RJ Evans


2 comments:

Glynis said...

This is a great article! I love the bear!

eddiego65 said...

Cute bear!

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