Beaches in Southern California can be full of surprises – you might encounter anything from drum circles to snake charmers and creatures on stilts.
These days if you travel south from Santa Monica towards LAX, you are in for a special treat: German artist Michael Sistig created an outdoor art installation. It includes shipping containers, a polar bear and a modern day siren luring passers-by.
Kerstin Zilm takes a closer look.
At first glance it seems like a tidal wave swept four rusty shipping containers onto the beach in front of the refinery and power plant at El Segundo. Jumbo jets from Los Angeles’ international airport soar over red and white smoke stacks every few minutes.
A closer look reveals an oversized emaciated polar bear resting on top of the darkest container – bones showing through his pink skin. On a grey container a few feet away sits a sparsely dressed female figure in a blue shirt – her naked legs dangling over the edge. Speakers positioned at her waist and neck send luring sounds towards the ocean.
Robin McStotts and her husband Brian are taking their daily walk along the beach. She collects pebbles and shells. He takes pictures – without giving the stranded goods a second look. “I think there is a bunch of metal containers on the beach here and that there is going to be some volleyball players very unhappy with that,” said Brian McStotts. “They are right on their volleyball courts.”
Melinda and Andrea, two students on a private beachcleaning-outing, are more curious. “What is that? It looks interesting,” asks Andres. “Oh look! A polar bear,” says Melinda. “Awesome. I love it. It’s art, yeah?”
Melinda guessed right: Containers, bear sculpture and modern day siren are the Anti-Arche – an art installation by German artist Michael Sistig currently in residence at the new art laboratory ESMoA, which stands for El Segundo Museum of Art. Sistig does not want to give any interpretation of his work but he insists: the installation is not a direct message to President Obama or U.S. citizens about global warming. Support by the gallery and location just happened to be perfect for the project:
“I think all over the world we have to raise awareness about sustainability,” Sistig said. “All human beings have to think about our future. I do this more like a scientist or alchemist. I just want to ask some questions and maybe I can inspire the viewers to find some questions about what this is all about.”
Brian Sweeney, a real estate developer who owns ESMoA with his wife Eva funded the installation with about $100,000. The biggest challenge: getting the necessary permits. A land surveyor had to finally determine the exact spot for the containers. Sweeney offers his own interpretation of the artwork.
“The siren in my own mind – she sings a song that maybe lures ships to crash but L.A. is like a siren to the world with Hollywood and it’s sending its messages out too,” Sweeney said. “So people will have their own interpretations of what they take out of this.”
“I was trying to figure out what it is,” said Brian McStotts. “I think it is a lady sitting on top of a container and on the other side could be anything from a dinosaur to a turkey or a chicken ready to cook. If someone, anyone considers it art it would make it art no matter what somebody else thought.”
The Anti-Arche will be at the beach of El Segundo only temporarily. The exact date of its dismantling has still to be determined.
This piece originally aired during KCRW’s local broadcast of All Things Considered.