Mel Chin’s Two Me invites the public to pose as living monuments in the courtyard of City Hall. Visitors may ascend fully accessible ramps to one of two identical seven-foot-tall pedestals, inscribed simply with the word “Me.” Individually, each visitor attains monumental status when reaching the top. Together, across both platforms, visitors create a “We,” as in “We the People.” Chin’s artwork balances the longing for individualism with the foundational spirit of coexistence embedded within American culture. Chin modeled these pedestals directly after John Wanamaker’s Citizen statue on the west side of City Hall, and invites the two visitors to greet each other back at ground level and further explore their collectivity.
Location: Site 01: City Hall
The project will be on view to the public through Sunday, November 5.
Lab Hours: Closed
1pm – 4pm
Granite, steel, bronze, glass, commercial-grade aluminum ramp system, marine plywood, pigment, non-slip coatings, and people
Two Me Collaborators and Fabricators
Angelo Tartaglini of Angelo’s Marble and Granite, Inc., Greg Skelton of American Access, Inc., Amanda Wiles, Barron Brown, Helen K. Nagge, Mason Darling, MichaelAngelo Rodriguez, Severn Eaton, and Zhuoer (Audrey) Liu
The City of Philadelphia; The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy; and the Department of Public Property
Concepts framed in early Philadelphia loom monumentally in the public mind and express our American identity.
The individual with “inalienable rights” (reinforced by the promotion of rugged individualism in the late 1920s that continues today) is combined with the “We” of “We the People.” These ideas, from two historic documents that define our values as Americans, are brought together as components of a two-part installation, revealing contradictions and activating a curious dialectic.
The current egomaniacal cult of celebrity, the rise of obsessive selfiedom, and the instagrammable evidence of “Me” is doubled and shares time, space, and focus to become “Two Me,” presenting a divided We. So, the idealized form of collective cooperation is circumvented by this dysfunctional “equal representation.”
Two identical plinths are fabricated to the exact height, scale, and shape as the pedestal for the John Wanamaker Citizen statue in Philadelphia that sits on the eastern, outward-facing skirt of City Hall. They sit side by side, but not touching. Instead of “Citizen,” both plinths bear “Me” cast in bronze letters. On the backside of each pedestal is an extensive network of ramps to allow full access to members of the public to ascend and pose as living versions of the bronze citizen. Individuals who step up will complete this monument.
About the Artist
Mel Chin was born in Houston, Texas. He is known for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that conjoin cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas. He developed Revival Field (1989–ongoing), a project that pioneered the field of "green remediation," the use of plants to remove toxic, heavy metals from the soil. His nationwide Fundred Dollar Bill Project continues to engage and present the public will for an end of childhood lead-poisoning. Mel Chin is an artist resistant to any branding that may fence in his capacity to execute iconic sculptures in any known medium, engage in any territory toxic or social, or encourage the expansion and generational transfer of ideas in any alternative field, the expansion and generational transfer of ideas.
His work is exhibited extensively in the US and abroad and was documented in the popular PBS program, Art 21: Art of the 21st Century. Mel is the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including four honorary doctorates. A traveling retrospective exhibition of his work, titled ReMatch, opened at the New Orleans Museum of Art in February 2014. As a follow up to ReMatch which explored his mutative strategies, a solo comprehensive survey, “ALL OVER the PLACE” organized by No Longer Empty and the Queens Museum, is being planned for citywide manifestations for spring 2018.