Counter Arts
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Counter Arts

Fearless Girl vs. the Void

Some art requires context

There’s a quiet little controversy going on in Lower Manhattan surrounding a piece of art that nearly everyone loves. Tourists pose beside the statue. Locals pat her on the head as they pass by. Artists decorate her with crowns and pandemic masks.

Of course I’m talking about “Fearless Girl” (or “brave girl” as the teenagers call her). Artist Kristen Visbal has taken to the media to save her statue from the red tape that might trap the five foot bronze in a basement or drag her off to a public lobby.

The fierce little statue was first planted in front of the Wall Street Bull, staring him down. “It’s art vs. commerce,” some declared. “It’s women against the moneyed establishment.” “Youth against age.” “Girls against predators.”

There was no end to speculation.

The girl was clearly against the bull. But what was the symbolic meaning of the bull? Tourists think it means the Financial District, Wall Street, the stock market, capitalism.

But artists being artists, we soon discovered that the Wall Street Bull was initially also anti-establishment . The statue appeared, much like the Fearless Girl, in the dead of night, as a statement.(read all about it)

Nowadays, the Bull is commonly thought of as a financial good luck charm — a symbol of aggressive financial optimism — as proved by the various trinkets made in China to place on banker and bill-payer desks, keychains to dangle from purses devoid of cash but laden with credit cards, and this is further proved by its own glowing testicles, rubbed to a fine luster by happy, hopeful visitors. (It might possibly be the only statue in New York City that has been more frequently photographed from behind than from the front….except maybe Fearless Girl in her new location.)

I live downtown and Fearless Girl has been my neighbor for as long as she has existed. A challenging and nuanced little thing, she can only be taken in context with the object she is staring down. Unlike some other bronze denizens that hang out around here.

We love this guy, but it honestly makes no difference where he checks his briefcase; couple of years ago he moved from the bottom of Zucotti Park…I mean Liberty Park….to the northwest corner of Broadway and Liberty Street.

Currently, our Fearless Girl is staring down the New York Stock Exchange. This is meaningful, and moving her changes everything.

You just can’t help looking at what she’s facing down.

The artist’s plea was warmly approved and NYC’s Landmarks Commission threw in some gorgeous love for the statue staying where it is for the next three years.

But longtime New Yorkers, let’s consider this: what if she was eventually moved? (after all…three years? that’s like one pandemic plus one binge-through of Game of Thrones.) So let’s say after three years they feel like moving her. Where can she go?

Putting Fearless Girl in the zoo, for example, would not lessen her power to cause kids and adults to put their hands on their hips and take photos to mimic her, but it would certainly alter her message and expose humans for the hairless apes that we are.

really, we can’t help but copy her…

Facing her towards the Rockefeller Christmas Tree would make a great commentary on environmentalism and youth staring down traditions that are no longer environmentally sustainable.

Putting her across from the Red Door Beauty Spa would turn her into a commentary on agism, looks and female beauty.

Setting her up across from the Trump building on Fifth Avenue…

Well, you get the picture. She is a piece of art which is also a public condemnation or at the very least a conversation starter.

We interact with Fearless Girl because she is compelling. The artist’s own message, however, is only relayed when Fearless Girl remains in context with the Stock Exchange or any one of its capitalist symbols (which we have already determined is NOT the Charging Bull that the artist originally thought it was) — so where shall our girl live? We do not want her to suffer the fate of our Charging Bull and become diluted to a keychain symbol of teen stubbornness!

fearless, stubborn AND fierce!

Come on, creative New Yorkers. We obviously want Fearless Girl to stay right where she is, but where would you place the Fearless Girl if she isn’t allowed to live across from the Stock Exchange?

Drop your ideas below. I’m dying to know what you think.

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M. M. De Voe

M. M. De Voe

Fictionista, collector of obscure awards, admirer of optimists in the face of dread. Author of Book&Baby, an acclaimed guide for writer-parents. mmdevoe.com

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