In the summer of 2006, I made a piece I called "We", which was laregly an experiment to see if I could run a tin can telephone over the Hollow separating my Pittsburgh neighborhood, Bloomfield, from Polish Hill. The "phones" were installed as securely as I could get them in there, and I did manage (with help) to get the line across that urban canyon and connect the two sides. It didn't "work" exactly, but to me the whole thing was more about the impossible gesture than whether or not I could solve an engineering problem and have a cross-Hollow conversation.
Anyhow, I never expected the piece to last forever. The 950 feet of monofilament I used to string the cans together was only up for about two months, and eventually the phones started to blend in with the rest of their surroundings.
Last night I was tipped off that someone had re-purposed the old concrete bridge stanchion I had secured the phone to on the Polish Hill side. Excited, I dropped in with a camera today to find a new sculpture: a rusty skeleton man with a hat, perched on the edge overlooking the Hollow and Bloomfield - one hand pointing out over the gully, and the other open just enough to cradle a beer. There only remains one chunk of the original metal stand I bolted into the concrete two and a half years previous.
You never know what's going to happen when you put your work out into the world. I enjoy that surrender, not knowing whether something will ride for years, be removed the next morning, or just be plain destroyed by someone who hates it. So far as this skeleton guy goes, I welcome the change. Seeing him sitting there with a sort of constant vigil over the place reminded me of what that spot meant to me when I first came to Pittsburgh (I lived three doors away), and how far I've come since I decided to stay for awhile. The Hollow (maps label it The Bloomfield Ravine, old-timers knew it as Skunk Hollow from the trash incinerator that used to run there) is a quiet muse for a lot of folks around here. I hope it stays that way for decades to come - and I'm pretty sure they'll never land a Walgreens down there or build any Hollowview Lofts...