Having just returned from South Dakota"s Black Hills, it"s hard not to make comparisons between the deliberate destruction I saw there, and the deliberate destruction captured in the exhibit Boom Baby!: The Last Days of Market Square Arena, now on view at the Indianapolis Art Center. The first act of destruction in question, the use of dynamite to shape a cliff face into the awe-inspiring Crazy Horse monument (which will dwarf Mount Rushmore when it"s complete) is, of course, borne of different intentions than the implosion of MSA.
"Road" by Patte Owings, part of the "Boom Baby!" exhibit at the IAC.
Coming home to Indiana and visiting the exhibit, where a video shot of MSA before and after the blast runs as accompaniment, I was struck by the notion of using explosives to achieve an artistic and historical end (Crazy Horse) vs. using explosives to achieve an economic end (MSA). The arena no longer served a purpose in the supply-and-demand, economic viability sense; and therefore, with Conseco in full function, the dinosaur was put to rest. Photographers Ginny Taylor Rosner and Patte Owings literally shot thousands of pictures of MSA before and after the implosion. The video reinforced the odd juxtaposition of the building"s interior ephemera and detritus, from ticket stubs to dishware to a crumpled jacket flung over the back of a chair, with the poking wires and beams and chunks of concrete left after the blast. In the video, one could see the skies shift with the implosion, carefully orchestrated in a rhythmic series of booms and leaving behind a shroud of smoke. This, too, conjured a South Dakota comparison; as we stood viewing the Mount Rushmore monument just days ago, behind us smoke billowed upwards from fires in the forests and dry plains below us. (The next day, we learned, the monument was closed due to the encroaching blaze.) Both clouds of smoke were awesome in their own way. Sometimes destruction is eerily beautiful; perhaps it"s the scale of it that so moves us. Humans, and Mother Nature, are capable of grand acts - whether or not these serve noble ends. Rosner focused mostly on the interior of MSA while Owings trained her lens on the outside architecture of the building and its implosion"s aftermath. Owings" "Sprite" reveals a banner for the soft drink tucked into the wreckage - as if commerce were alive and well, impervious to the destruction all around. The intactness of this advertisement is a sad accident that reminds us of the symbolic power of money and all it promises. On the other hand, viewing the image from a purely aesthetic standpoint, there"s something lovely in the composition of chaos, and Owings captures this perfectly. Rosner"s interiors effectively prepare us to be moved. Boom Baby!: The Last Days of Market Square Arena, photographs by Patte Owings and Ginny Taylor Rosner, will continue through Sept. 8 at the Indianapolis Art Center. The exhibit is accompanied by PhotoCalumet: Larry D. Mickow Jr., a photo essay of the family-owned businesses in the Calumet region of Northwestern Indiana. For information, call the IAC, 820 E. 67th St., at 255-2464, www.indplsartcenter.org.