Thursday, August 15, 2013

First Impression - Knit The Bridge is Both Awesome & Underwhelming

A few initial personal impressions of The world's largest "yarn bombing" project, Knit The Bridge. (Opinion is my own and may change as I spend more time with it) 

Tons of people put lots of time, effort and love into this project and I'm very glad they did.


The awesome part of this sort of explains itself. The project was huge and pulling it off demonstrated a tremendously powerful community effort; technical skill and almost military coordination. Using an iconic bridge as a metaphoric demonstration of civil society involving almost 2000 people.

From The Post Gazette

"A niece in Toledo, Ohio, Rose Durant, also got involved. Ms. Deaniello didn't stop there, though, and brought in yet another acquaintance to create panels, 90-year-old Zella Poindexter, who lives in a Pittsburgh nursing home.

Much of the pre-site planning for Knit the Bridge was accomplished at the Spinning Plate gallery in East Liberty, where volunteers such as Ms. Deaniello, 71, were "little worker bees," she said, laughing.

The real buzz began early Saturday, when the actual assembly began. With the bridge closed off to vehicle and foot traffic, the low chatter of conversation from the mostly female crews was a backdrop as they stitched away hours in the sun."


The weakness of the project in some ways comes from it's greatest strength. 

Yarn Bombing as a movement tends to relate to street art and gather strength from pushing boundaries. Overwhelmingly the aesthetic is about softening the hard, technical world with the handmade, funky and chaotic. 

The main tower covering was machine knitted according to reports. Also, the most interesting aspects of the bridge like the cables were not "bombed". 

One also gets the strong impression that an effort was made to control and design out unexpected content or quirks- washing out anything remotely offensive or personal. (Could be wrong about that)

While I understand the physical and logistical barriers involved, the project fails to push the envelope in a way that creates true art. 

Views were from first look late Sunday evening. I may change my mind as I walk the bridge and soak it all in.


Vannevar said...

I wonder if the "underwhelming" evaluation isn't a bit harsh. Difficult task, managed by committee in full public view with infinity of stakeholders.

Christo wraps the Reichstag and it's art, right? These non-authorities wrap a bridge, turn walkways into galleries, AND their efforts turn into blankets for homeless people.

Certainly it's not bleeding-edge-offensive. It's public-committee-art. And yet - today's Pittsburgh Lesbian blog points out the rainbow blanket in the mix.

I want to love KnitTheBridge for all that it accomplishes, and if there's no Mapplethorpe then I have to realize, I didn't go to a private gallery or museum to see it, either.

John Morris said...

Yes, the end result is public committee art and the end result reflects that. A project that was supposed to bring out the city's hip, fun, offbeat side instead shows its really good at executing somewhat canned projects.

Don't get me wrong- after seeing just how huge and potentially dangerous the thing was, I understand how safety and logistics took center stage.

Vannevar said...

I think I agree with you more than disagree, sir. The miracle is that it was attempted and succeeded and in this of all places. Cheers, V.

Penny Mateer said...

Thanks so much for posting!

As co-director of Knit the Bridge I am writing to clarify some of the technical points. We worked closely with Allegheny County /Department of Public works. Amanda's original design included covering the steel eye bar chains or cables as you refer to them but DPW said no for structural reasons.

We (and I include myself) made the material for the towers on knitting machines to control for consistent gauge and weight of the material again for structural reasons.

In case you haven't heard we are having a bridge party on Sunday August 25th 3 - 7pm. Join us!

I look forward to reading more comments.