love podium

love podium (2006) 

On a basic, visual level, Love Podium is a square platform with a small set of stairs on its front and back sides. These steps lead to two slightly larger-than-life-size lecterns, which look out in opposite directions and all but beg for bold proclamations to be shouted from their plastic planks. With this unique shape and stark design, the sculpture can come across as raw, silent, plain, and more than a little odd. After all, it is a most peculiar rostrum that suggests two people simultaneously stand side-by-side, shoulder to shoulder, and back to back as they face off against one another. But this uncanny object is rife with thoughtful symbolism and boasts a fascinating sculptural split personality of sorts.

In both form and title, Love Podium is a visual and verbal play on Victorian-era tête-a-tête loveseats, whose fused chairs face outwards in opposite directions to encourage whispered conversation and gossip between couples. While tête-a-têtes privilege intimacy, Peterman’s Love Podium does quite the opposite. It positions pairs so that they communicate with a larger audience, thus turning the function of the tête-a-tête on its “head.”  Love Podium is both a discrete, fine art object (with roots in the decorative arts, Surrealism, Minimalism, and environmental art) and a suggested platform for participatory performance art (with origins in social sculpture and public art). Love Podium’s power and poignancy exist precisely in the intersection between these two identities.

Love Podium is not alone in signaling a problem with the way we speak, listen, and generally communicate with one another under the umbrella of the First Amendment (a right that many throughout the world still do not have). It is part of a lineage of social sculpture set forth by Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) and Dan Graham (b. 1942) and finds a sculptural kindred spirit of sorts in the Freedom of Expression National Monument by Laurie Hawkinson, John Malpede, and Erika Rothenberg, originally installed at the Battery Park City Landfill in 1984 as part of a Creative Time public art initiative and redeployed in Foley Square during the 2004 election season.

2018 love podium (travel version) Klosterfelde
A crowd-favorite, Freedom is a colossal bright red megaphone that rises six feet off the ground. A plaque near the sculpture reads, “You are cordially invited to step up and speak up.”  Like Love Podium, Freedom offers, “a public forum for dialogue on the dynamics of free speech, power and powerlessness, and a multiplicity of social and cultural concerns” all the while directly confronting the public’s sense that their voices have been silenced in far too many ways. This megaphone metaphor is a powerful one, as is the idea of amplifying one’s voice through art.

Within contemporary sculpture and public art circles, diverse platforms for discourse like Love Podium have become more important and more popular than ever. Projects like Antony Gormley’s One & Other (2009), a Fourth Plinth Commission in Trafalgar Square, London, or Elmgreen and Dragset’s It’s Never Too Late To Say I’m Sorry (2011–2012) and Amalia Pica’s Now Speak! (2011), both featured in the Public Art Fund’s 2012 outdoor exhibition Common Ground in New York’s City Hall Plaza, evidence the prevalence of a desire to facilitate opportunities for pointed public expression through artistic engagement. 

Love Podium is part of a body of Peterman’s work that reconfigures discarded plastic excess into furniture and utilitarian objects—many of which have been repurposed in public spaces throughout our cities. The resulting sculptures are functionally, aesthetically, and philosophically sound; operating as environmentally conscious artworks that foster community connection. 

 In many cases, community togetherness and conversation are made possible by Peterman’s socially motivated sculptures. Paradoxically, though, the reality of our collective, not-so-earth-friendly consumption is never far from mind thanks to the distinct materiality of these artworks. The sad truth is that the plastic Peterman recycles represents only a fraction of that which we regularly consume: the ratio is grossly disproportionate.

In fact, works like Love Podium represent roughly the plastic consumption of a single American over a twelve-month period. As Frieze Magazine critic Laurie Palmer points out, “making such psychological contradictions tangible is the level on which Peterman’s work is most effective and disturbing.”  That sentiment is echoed by curator Raimar Stange who notes, “as objects that are both utilitarian and aesthetic, Peterman’s works are equally at home within and outside of the fine-art context. More importantly, these qualities work together to serve Peterman’s agenda: to make palatable the otherwise prohibitively unsavory truth of our ecological circumstances.” To be sure, these qualities and more are present in Love Podium, a sculpture that melds artistic, social, and environmental issues with real- world opportunities for activism and imaginative re-use. 

2017 Rhona Hoffman Gallery 
Through this first-of-its-kind presentation of Love Podium, Dan Peterman dares the deCordova public to step up and make their voices heard, regardless of how complicated that effort might seem. Some will find the experience empowering, others vexing. Both reactions are completely valid and, when taken together with the conceptual nature of the object itself, help underscore the incongruous relationship between contemporary consumer consumption and responsible recycling.

Love Podium embodies and thus helps us confront, so many different oppositions (or split personalities) in our midst— front/back, inside/outside, left/right, yes/no, pro/con, public/ private, use/re-use - and suggests that the grey area between any binary indeed may be the sincerest place to begin a meaningful debate.

Mary M. Tinti   - Koch Curatorial Fellow 

2013 deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum platform 10: Dan Peterman Brochure

2017 Rhona Hoffman Gallery

2018 love podium (travel version) Klosterfelde

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