Public Art & the *whistle* factor

Reading this piece in frieze magazine about the process whereby Boris Johnson decided London’s Olympics needed something of a centrepiece for it’s architectural, political and economic gratuity:

The process by which the Orbit has become a reality is a perfect snapshot of just how vulgar monumental culture can be. Boris Johnson, the bumbling yet ruthless mayor of London, decided that the worthy collection of rather cheap-looking Olympic architecture needed some kind of monumental public art work to give it a bit of oomph.

Which reminded me almost explicitly of a scene from the ABC’s The Hollowmen in which the (fictional) Central Policy Unit (a group of spin doctors) is directed by Rob Stitch’s character to come up with “a centrepiece” for the budget, and to splash around some big cash numbers to achieve the desired effect. Their criteria for success? Whether the listener whistles impressively at the number cited for X or Y new initiative, the centrepiece of the budget (seen in the follow clip at ~30secs… and again at ~3:39 as the number continues to inflate). Suffice to say, the policy unit spends more time coming up with the figure than the actual policy.

The author of the frieze piece continues, inventing (perhaps?) a great new term for this kind of expansive, expensive works of public art that the Orbit is a part of:

Despite their separate fields of expertise, both [Orbit architects] Kapoor and Balmond have become equally trapped in a mode of expression that could be termed ‘fireworks art’: simply symbolic, highly affective works of art on a massive scale, whose only purpose seems to be the inducement of an awed ‘wow’ from the audience.

You can almost hear the whistle, can’t you.