I had time to get my Fringe on Wednesday night and wanted to go see that Japanese American play. You know, the one with the cranes.
I came to the area early to poke around and got caught in a downpour. The sun was shining, which added a certain insouciance to the weather.
On my way to Milian Park for “optimum viewing” of the Dance of the Cranes, I spied a piece of what development means to me.
Brandon Vickerd, the artist behind this spectacle, says, “These cranes represent change in the urban landscape, and the piece is really intended to get people to think about their relationship to the cityscape.”
OK. The “change in the urban landscape” that cranes represent (and, y’know, create) usually affects my relationship to the cityscape by uglifying public space. They demonstrate a contempt for those of us who share it. Whenever I see sidewalks blocked off, inhale dust and hear jackhammers, there are cranes up in the sky. Yes, I suppose anything that makes a mockery of the human habitat can be called sublime.
There was quite the turnout in Milian Park. I thought I saw one of the local, older, less professional residents hand another a can of some kind. Is that beer? Is there beer? There is a Red Hook Lobster truck but alas no Redhook beer. Before things got too crowded, I had a chat with a Fringe volunteer, name of Jeremiah, who had many things to say about Fringe and theater. [Quill was excited about something he said enough to write it down; where are you, Quill?] When asked, the volunteers I spoke to said that their job was to make sure people don’t walk into things while distracted by the dancing cranes.
The Dance of the Cranes was interesting because it brought a lot of people together in a public space to enjoy the sight of construction cranes spinning high up in the sky. What I usually experience, however, when there are cranes overhead, is the destruction of public space and the creation of inhospitable, inward-looking structures that trap heat and cast scant shadows without even so much as an awning to provide shelter from the rain. Progress shouldn’t have to be that degrading. Indeed, the Dance of the Cranes seemed to provide some measure of the sublime.
I don’t know what these particular cranes are doing when they’re not dancing. I don’t really know much about cranes at all. I idly wondered how much fuel these things consume, how much does it cost to spin those massive jibs around for almost an hour and I thought of Mad Max, which is a movie that takes place in a world defined by scarcity, where people squander those scarce resources to do what, exactly? Developers do what the Mock Turtle in Alice and Wonderland calls the different branches of Arithmetic: Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision. Mathematics of this kind is the negation of joy. That’s what I think when I stop to consider the cranes.