Thursday, August 22, 2013

Running Table

Running Table, 1997
Dan Peterman
Millennium Park, east of Cloud Gate
201 East Randolph Street

            Originally located in the A. Montgomery Ward Garden in Grant Park, this 100-foot long picnic table with benches is one of two works fashioned from recycled plastic extrusions for the “Chicago Front Yard Picnic.” The second work, Chicago Ground Cover, a 50 x 50 foot dance platform, has been moved to the Spirit of Music Garden at 601 South Michigan Avenue and expanded to 4600 square feet in order to accommodate more dancers. Running Table now sits east of Anish Kapoor’s CloudGate ("The Bean") in Millennium Park.
            Running Table inspires introspection and interaction on a number of levels. Functionally, the table invites strangers from various walks of life to congregate as they eat. Sociologically, such interactions may reveal a sense of community, or lack thereof, in a public space in the city. As an object crafted from recycled extruded plastic (the equivalent of two million milk jugs) in a space often defined by city-sponsored fairs and tourism, it comments on the waste produced during such events and in American society in general. Because the table is modular, constructed from interlocking pieces, it may, theoretically, be extended endlessly. Thus, it could be understood to speak to the ongoing need for creative solutions to the issues of consumer waste and over-consumption or, perhaps, the ultimate futility of such endeavors.
            Peterman received his M.F.A. from the University of Chicago in 1986 and is known for works of art that engage with their environment and with the public in ways that explore networks of recycled and discarded materials. In 2002, he co-founded, with Connie Spreen, the “Experimental Station” on the south side of Chicago, a not-for-profit “incubator of innovative cultural, educational, and environmental projects and small-scale enterprises.” In addition to housing his studio and providing venues for various artistic and cultural events, one occupant is the Blackstone Bicycle Works, a youth education program that pairs skilled bicycle mechanics with young people from the Woodlawn neighborhood and the South Side in order to teach mechanical and other job skills. The shop promotes ecological practices as it refurbishes donated and abandoned bicycles and allows the interns to work toward purchase of such bikes, as well as offering them for sale to the general public.

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