Last Sunday at one in the afternoon, a local Grand Rapids guy named Rob Bliss and a handful of friends started to dump paper airplanes off of downtown buildings. By the time they finished, one hundred thousand planes had descended on the nearly 20,000 people crowding the streets below. While the planes were raining down, loudspeakers blared a refrain from “Olsen Olsen,” a song by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. Some of the people in the crowd hummed along; others played the tune on instruments that they had brought for the event.
The plane launch was part of Grand Rapids ArtPrize, an “open art contest” offering nearly half a million dollars in prizes to the most popular entrants as determined by public vote. Sara, the kids, and I have been loving ArtPrize, discussing what we like and don’t like, what effect certain pieces have on us, and even how we should, or wish to, define art. The contest has provoked a lot of discussion among friends and neighbors, too. Some people seem almost offended by it, as if it demeans art in some way, while others are reveling in the “anything goes” nature of the competition.
There is a lot more I could say about both the paper-airplane stunt and ArtPrize in general, but I haven’t fully formulated my thoughts about them, so I’m going to hold off for now. Instead, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of downtown Grand Rapids last Sunday. Click on the thumbnails to get larger versions (without leaving the page).