Sculptor Remakes NYPD Surveillance Tower as Terrifying Spider

Zaq Landsberg, SkyWatch Spider (2014), at Socrates Sculpture Park. Photo: courtesy Socrates Sculpture Park.

Among the highlights of the recently opened 14th Annual Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition at Long Island City’s Socrates Sculpture Park is Zaq Landsberg’s SkyWatch Spider, a fairly terrifying commentary on police surveillance that transforms a New York Police Department spy tower into a threatening, eight-legged robot.

The spider-like sculpture is one of 15 selected from nearly 300 entries for this year’s show, which sought “socially aware” works that “engage with the larger narrative of public space.” As if presaging some dystopian near-future, SkyWatch Spider looms over the park, reminding visitors of the growing concerns over privacy and power in our modern age.

The NYPD has employed SkyWatch towers since 2006. According to Landsberg (in an interview with Animal New York), the towers “are essentially a liftable prison guard towers on trailers, which they [the police] deploy at crowded places, in front of housing projects, in poor neighborhoods, etc to ‘deter crime.’” A statement on the sculpture park website says the piece “emphasizes the absurdity of these structures, which New Yorkers have accepted, perhaps reluctantly, as fixtures in their streets and neighborhoods.”

The Star Wars nerds at Time Out New York have compared the police surveillance stations to “something dispatched to the ice planet Hoth by Emperor Palpatine,” and Landsberg’s disconcerting piece to a “mash-up of RoboCop and the Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture,” Maman and Spiders, that appeared at Rockefeller Center in 2001.

The “Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition” will be on view at the Socrates Sculpture Park through March 22, 2015.

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