There’s a large glass case that begs passers-by to stop and reflect for a while. Inside is a hyper-realistic, life-size sculpture titled Vendor with Walkman, a creation by the world-renowned artist Duane Hanson.
Vendor with Walkman is a contemporary installation in which a somber looking man sits slumped in a chair holding a 1980s yellow Walkman. The bearded ginger is dressed in white tennis shoes, light colored jeans and a peach t-shirt, sporting a baseball cap emblazoned with palm trees. Scattered around him are plastic grocery bags and cleaning supplies. It’s not clear who he is or what he does, but the overall narrative speaks to modern day America and the subtle nuances of life that are often overlooked, like your local grocery bagger and cashier. Ever pondered their life for a moment?
For now, that afternoon, the installation is being activated in an unconventional way. Three dancers dressed in uniform just as the Vendor stretch and pose on the floor. Momentarily, the trio grab chairs and topple them over. Photographer Tabatha Mudra and her assistant snap photos amid their professional lighting equipment.
“Hold it. Hold it. Thanks!”
The dancers hold poses for mere seconds and seemingly never ending moments. Airport passengers carrying luggage look befuddled. A Midwestern man on a business trip stops and asks, “What’s going on here?”
Performance art in a baggage claim? But why?
Thanks to the good work of the Public Art and Design Department (PAD) at the Broward Cultural Division, this art project emerged in celebration of PAD’s 40th anniversary. Along with this special project, PAD has run a series of similar photography shoots in pairing public art with local dance troupes.
Mudra is engaged to work on a handful of these photography shoots and said that working at the airport was the most unique for her, “because it wasn’t meant to be pretty,” she said. “Duane Hanson’s sculpture is gloomy and makes you ask, ‘Is that a real person in there?’”
As any collaboration unfolds, Mudra had a process to consider.
“How do we play with this? How do we make it so we are honoring the artwork and showcasing what the dancers had in mind?” she said.
“Together, what we did was about bringing life, tension, and highlighting art.”
It looks like this mission is a success.