Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

John Bannon “Transit” (2005)

with 2 comments

CTA Headquaters

When I first came to Chicago, I loved CTA, mostly because I have a U-Pass, which allows me to get  myself about without worrying about paying for ride fare.  Life was great and I was loving public transportation, reveling in it even (especially after LA Metro).  And then something horrible happened.  On the morning of Saturday the 16th, after a night of innocent fun (it may have been four in the morning…), I went to the Blue line to head home.  What happened?  The machine ate my U-Pass.  Suddenly CTA was not so amazing. Having to pay $2.25 for each measly hop on a bus or train was miserable.  Not as miserable as calling CTA Customer Service every day for five days straight trying to be polite as possible, culminating in a mad dash to CTA Headquarters in an attempt to pick up a well-deserved 7 day courtesy pass.  But no, CTA added insult to injury.  4:31 is the exact time I reached the CTA Headquarters, one minute after 4:30, and the security guard (who takes his job WAAAY too seriously) wouldn’t let me up to the second floor to pick up my pass.  After sharing some very appropriate words with Mr. Security Guard, I left, angry (in need of some retail therapy) and spent the rest of the weekend paying for each individual train and bus ride.  On Monday I finally picked up my courtesy pass (still waiting on that new U-Pass).  Thank god I have a blog where I can complain about this saga in such a public way.  Okay but for real this does have to do with an art installation.

Hold that thought.

When I returned to the CTA Headquarters on Monday, I noticed an art installation in their lobby (I hadn’t noticed it the first time because I was too enraged).  High above the lobby floor was what looked like an abstract mess of neon squiggels.  This knot of neon lines is ingeniously titled Transit (2005), and was commissioned for the CTA lobby from artist John Bannon.  It isn’t until you proceed to the second floor that the neon squiggles of Transit make sense.  Looking out over the lobby, you come face to face with a quaint scene of a train rumbling down a subway tunnel (in neon lights no less).  Oh yay! Some art to look at while you wait in this ridiculous customer service line!

Transit reminds me of the only thing I remember from my astronomy classes (yes, I’ve taken multiple).  There is this thing called “parallax.”  I don’t really know what it means but I remember the word, and remember how it was illustrated at the Griffith Observatory in a display called “A Familiar Star Pattern.”  In the display is an arrangement of lights which visitors can walk around.  The lights represent stars (duh) in a cluster.  Only when you stand in one particular spot do you realize this arrangement of lights slash stars is the big dipper constellation.  But if you view it from any other position you don’t see the big dipper.

It’s parallax! I think.

Transit works like the big dipper display at Griffith Observatory.  From below, all you see is a tangle of neon lights. When you stand directly in front of the installation, the neon strands magically arrange themselves into a scene with a train! How cool is that?  It’s actually really cool.  Then if you walk around (the parallax thing happens again) and the scene disappears.  But if you go around and view the work from an angle 90 degrees from the frontal view, you see another scene in neon, this time with a bus in it! Well this is fun.

If this effect isn’t called “parallax,” I don’t really care.

Accompanying Transit, in the hell that is CTA Headquarters, is one of those cows that are everywhere  in Chicago. This bovine is painted, very proactively, like a bus.  Chi-town was the first city to do this project, but now every city seems to have similar projects of painted animals (in San Francisco they have don’t have an animal, they have hearts, and in Palm Springs they have Bighorn sheep), my favorite is the town with beavers (this link is SO worth clicking).

I doubt anyone in the long-ass customer service line was looking at the artwork.  But you know what?—In Chicago, that doesn’t matter, art is everywhere in this city.  Public art is literally everywhere, and here is a brochure from the DCA to prove it.  Chicagoans are force-fed public art every single day.  Personally, I don’t mind the art feeding tube; I like seeing the Picasso everyday when I get off the blue line, and I’m not going lie; I love looking out over Millennium Park everyday at school.

This installation is so easy to navigate.

One last and actually really awesome (sarcasm? Me? Never!) thing about the neon CTA art: So that random cluster of neon lights that you see looking up at Transit from the lobby—It’s actually a map of the train system!  It’s parallax times three.  I don’t think many people know how cool this work is (and it took me many minutes of googling to find anything about it).  So now you know.  But it’s not like I’m encouraging you to take the convenient green line down to CTA Headquarters to see it, screw CTA.

– H.I.

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2 Responses

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  1. I’m pretty sure Parralax is the injectable Patsy tests on Saffy’s hand.

    Woody

    November 2, 2010 at 8:06 AM

  2. Thanks for the nice words about my piece, I’m glad you like it.

    John E. Bannon

    January 23, 2014 at 3:47 PM


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