An Artistic Moment (and a religious ghost?)

Nari Ward Amazing Grace

The picture above is of a modern sculpture installation that seems poignant. The article accompanying the picture further describes the work, how it came together and its multiple instalations…

…Three hundred and sixty five strollers later, Mr. Ward’s collection became the seminal work “Amazing Grace”: shabby vehicles arranged with lengths of fire hose in the shape of a ship’s hull. A recording of “Amazing Grace,” by Mahalia Jackson, plays on a loop overhead. First installed by the artist in 1993 in a former firehouse on 141st Street, the piece conveyed both a sober perspective of what the neighborhood had endured—the crack epidemic, urban blight—and also hope for the future…

None of the various interpretations applied strike me as deeply insightful. Why would a bunch of abandoned strollers strung together be such a powerful piece of art that it would be moved around the world and 20 years later be reassembled as representative of the best. Why would this move people? I can’t see empty abandoned strollers being “hope for the future” or as it later says when Athens saw it as ” it was much more about history being a kind of monolith, looking at these strollers as evidence of a cultural history that they were involved in in their own life”. What cultural history? Did the people of modern Athens build the Parthenon?

Arguably what the people who have seen this have built is empty baby strollers. Empty by means of “crack”. Empty by means of hyper-materialism that said kids are too much trouble, even if they never actively said that. Empty by means of abortion. The ironic twist is Amazing Grace playing on loop. The absence of children is in a way the absence of at least a grace. I doubt the artist would say that he was saying any of that, but Jesus said the stones would cry out. Even Caiaphas was a prophet. I’d say that work resonates because we recognize the law proclamation against us. We can see ourselves in it. The fact that we can’t actually put words to it in a coherent way says just how much vocabulary we have lost – a ghost haunting the exhibit.