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'Poisonous' Vandalism Gives New Meaning to Public Art

June 30, 1991

On Friday, June 21, "Negotiated Settlement," the controversial installation at Harvard and Bonita avenues, was vandalized. Someone ran a slice along about 50 feet of the fabric forming the wall of the inner corridor.

I am told that this is the second time for this sort of damage. It is appalling that someone would direct such physical abuse to this piece, for which the verbal abuse was fully sufficient. The controversy has seemed to me to be a sign of health. People definitely care deeply about how their town looks. But the actual physical aggression is pointless and poisonous.

On June 21, the sight of the damaged piece taught me something unexpected about how powerfully symbolic such public art can be.

Poor wounded thing! I am surprised at my own reaction to the vandalism. I have gone so far as to write the newspapers in protest of it--not just because it's uninvolving and mediocre but because as public art it should involve the public. This thing was a fait accompli --no wonder people hate it!

Now, with this vandalism, my heart goes out to the thing. Finally, there's emotional resonance, presence. I am not kidding--the ripped sheets have a pathetic glory now.

I recommend that the Claremont Community Foundation not repair the damage and let the piece sit here and suffer what comes--and meet July 15 in proud tatters.

Now, as I write this letter, I know that "Negotiated Settlement" is being repaired. What a shame! It's back to boring!



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