Public Comment: ‘Against The Run’

Public Comment is a Site Specific series dedicated to documenting raw reactions to public art from passersby. The goal is to get a glimpse at how public art pieces are engaging with their installation sites.

Up For Comment: “Against The Run,” Alicja Kwade. Presented by the Public Art Fund. Curated by Nicholas Baume.

On View: Doris C. Freedman Plaza, southeast corner of Central Park, 60th Street and 5th Avenue, New York City. September 2015 to February 2016.

About The Piece: “Against The Run” has been on my NYC Public Art To Do List for weeks. If I were on HGTV I would tell you it “checks all my boxes:” something familiar made unfamiliar; fucking with perception; fucking with time; hypnotic moving parts. From the Public Art Fund’s description:

In Against the Run, Alicja Kwade (b. 1979, Katowice, Poland) has created a clock that tells the correct time, but does so in a way that confounds expectations. Adapting a nineteenth-century design that we might typically see in New York City, the artist has reversed the conventional mechanism. The face of the clock rotates backwards while the second hand appears to stand still, pointing vertically at all times. Our understanding of how a clock should run is second nature, making this variation almost impossible to read, even as it continues to tell the right time.

It is sitting on prime real estate at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, where the Public Art Fund rotates installations.

Christian, Upper West Side. Meeting a friend at the plaza.

The watch itself is moving, not the meters – what you call them? So I thought, that’s very unique. I’ve never seen it elsewhere in the world. So that kind of gravitated me to stay in this point.
Very original idea.
I think it works very well in the area. I think it’s a very central point, where a lot of tourists are entering Central Park. I think it’s a good attraction point, a good meeting point, and a meeting point should have a watch. [This one’s] a little bit different, too.

Michelle Woods, Detroit. Visiting NYC.

Well, it caught our eye coming in from right here so we noticed it. But I’m not sure if – well – we probably would have noticed it if we saw that statue up there, because I was looking at the entrance to Central Park.
It looked like it was wrong. So we were like, what’s wrong with this clock? And so we wanted to investigate it further to see what was going on.
I think it’s surprising – time and motion – it’s fun.

Sachi, Upper West Side. With a friend, on the way to meet another friend.
We’re kind of in a – well not in a rush – but I guess we were looking for a clock, and then we noticed that it’s broken, and she and I are a bit of some weirdos, so we resonate with the piece of artwork, I guess.
I like it. It’s a bit out of the ordinary. But it looks like it belongs, at the same time it doesn’t. And I like that about the New York environment.
Friend, running up to us: She’s so mad! She’s like we’re meeting on 66th-
Sachi compliments my glasses and they run off.

Alex, East Fairfield. 10 years old. Visting NYC.
To totally honest, this is just a really cool clock. I’ve never seen one like it before. I don’t know how accurate it’s going be at reading time because it’s going to be upside down all the time, it’s going to get annoying. But it just looks really cool, overall impression.
I think its an artistic point of view. It’s not necessarily supposed to be practical.

Sonia, Daytona Beach. Visting NYC
It’s broken, that’s what I was thinking. That thing is broken.
It’s interesting, it’s sort of captivating because you can’t – wasn’t it going the other way before? Or has it always been going that way?
You’re used to the hands moving, not the clock. There’s something, I don’t know, something a little metaphysical about it. That we’re used to seeing time move in one way, and one direction, and then all of a sudden you’re looking at a whole new perspective. And, I don’t know, it’s still time, and it’s still going, but something’s different about it.

Fabeno, Italy. Visting NYC.
I think that it’s something crazy, you know? But that’s cool. I can see the hour, I have to turn my neck to know what hour it is. But I think that’s something cool.

Bill Tai, works nearby. The only person I saw reading the informational poster about the artwork.
It looks familiar first, and then it’s unfamiliar.
I came from down the block and just thought it was a typical piece of streetscape… I know this is a public art space and I also wondered why public art wasn’t going back in, and that we were getting a piece of standard streetscape.
I always go for the explanation [poster], just to help me work through what I’m looking at. It seems fairly explanatory. I haven’t really looked at how it actually tells time, just the motion right now.

Uriel, Brooklyn. Sitting on a bench with his sister Dariela.
Yeah, I was looking at it. It’s interesting. It reminds me of something you would see in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – sort of twisted. It’s kind of nice.
Being near Central Park and the Apple Store, it’s right in the middle of traffic.

Dariela, Brooklyn. Sitting on a bench with her brother Uriel.
I thought it was weird, also a little bit surreal looking, because it’s spinning. Just the style of it – it’s cool, it’s bold.

Jerry, who told me he lives “east of Manhattan.” He meant Queens. Dude, it’s okay! Me too!
I like it. It’s one of the better art pieces that [have been] on this place. I come here many years, I saw all kinds of stuff. So I like it better than many others.
I like that it’s little bit old fashioned, old timer clock. And you can say it’s creative.
It makes it interesting, even it keeps correct time… even there is another clock over there, of course.

Mohammed Uddin. Sells I <3 NY T-Shirts at the plaza.
They’re coming in the morning, eight o’clock [in the] morning. Then I see a lot of tourists, lots of local people taking video, taking pictures, everything.
I like it.
People are coming, stay over here. [A] lot of people stay, take a picture, people have fun.

Stephen Wang, Jacksonville. Visiting NYC.
I like it because it’s unusual.
When I looked at it, it was a kind of off-kilter clock.
I thought it was by design – I recognized it was by design… because it looked like a clock in a public place.

Maria, East Harlem. Hanging out at Central Park after meeting a client. Before I could approach her, she asked me to take a picture of her in front of the clock.
I saw [it from] far away. I just came as a curiosity.
[It’s] very interesting that it’s going around, and round, and spinning very slowly. And sometimes you think that it’s broken, but it’s not. So that’s what came in my mind – it’s broken, [or] not?
Then I sat here and I’m just looking, and people are having fun and observing. So that’s what made me want to have a picture with it. It’s pretty cool.