Bill Beirne: Madison Square Trapezoids, with Performances by the Vigilant Groundsman
Acting his role as The Vigilant Groundsman in his Madison Square Trapezoids, performance and video artist Bill Beirne turns the quotidian acts of horticultural maintenance and wildlife documentation into aesthetic, absurdist actions centered around designated zones of artistic inquiry. Boundaries and surveillance have preoccupied Beirne since his earliest performances in the 1970s. Inspired by the “street-works” movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Beirne works to transfer impromptu street performance into an art context through video work in public space. In Madison Square Park, surveillance cameras on three small lawns transmit a live video feed to the monitors housed below the fountain at the Park’s southern end. The frames of these cameras’ visual fields mark the boundaries of three trapezoidal areas on the small lawns, creating implied physical spaces within the park’s topography. In and around these zones, The Vigilant Groundsman painstakingly trims the grass, measures the girth of surrounding trees, the rate of falling leaves, and the frequency with which squirrels enter each trapezoid. This absurdist homage to everyday routine transpires under the watchful eye of Beirne’s surveillance cameras. Visitors are implicated as audience members for Beirne’s recurring artistic performance.