It was the second phrase written in the sky yesterday afternoon that sent a collective shiver down the spines of many New Yorkers, and sent their apparently fertile imaginations reeling for meaning. In fact, the disembodied phrase led many to believe that the message, taken out of context, was the declaration of an impending attack on the city by a terrorist group as opposed to what it really was; an art project from those scallawags the Friends of The High Line, responsible for such terrifying public works as a certain West Side park.
As reported in The Daily News, yesterday afternoon’s brilliantly clear, blue sky served as the perfect canvas for the project, an almost midsummer shade of sky on which three phrases; “WE LOST OUR LEASE,” “LAST CHANCE,” and “NOW OPEN” were written in jet exhaust by a sky-writing plane. Unfortunately, “LAST CHANCE” turned out be much more loaded with interpreted meaning than Friends of The High Line, or basic logic, could have imagined.
The News quotes one local witness as tweeting, “”Call me crazy but I don’t think ominously writing ‘Last Chance’ in smoke over NYC constitutes as ‘art.”
And in what is sure to cause a furor/annoyance over said furor, the project, designed by Pittsburgh-based artist Kim Beck, was paid for in part by public funds for the arts (read: tax dollars). Basically, all the locals who were “terrorized” by their own internal projections over the meaning of the ambiguity writ large over NYC were paying for the thrill with their own tax contribution. But as art is meant to thrill and be interpreted, it can be argued that the piece was more than successful, and worthy of public finds even if the Twitterverse is ready to debate its efficacy as “art” at all.
But putting the ancient and ephemeral argument over “what constitutes art?” aside, what does it say about the apparently fragile psyche of the modern NYC dweller that an art project can cause a quiet panic? And incidentally, what kind of amateur-hour terrorist group sends a threat that takes almost half an hour to write out?
To paraphrase the late, great Brooklynite Jimmy Durante, sometimes “a phrase written in the sky is just a phrase written in the sky.”