I was a bit out of sorts today, so rather than just ride my bike to and from a work meeting, I decided to ride down to the Marigny for reading and coffee at Cafe Flora in the evening. On my way, I passed the site of my first bike accident in New Orleans. No, nothing serious, and nothing even all that interesting. Last night I was stopped at a light, left foot resting on the curb, right hand dialing N. for advice (I saw a line at the Visitor’s Bureau–I wanted to know if I should bother standing in it). I then simply lost my balance and tipped over. I’ve got some scratches, but other than that, I think I mostly just need to make up a better story. But back to tonight’s ride. On my way down Camp, l passed this lovely Public Art at Lafayette Square. These eyes often make me nervous, all lit up and staring at me. N. likes them–you can sit on them, and sometimes one light will go out, reminding you that yes, you are in New Orleans. We have pirates. Me? I don’t like to be stared at, especially not by disembodied eyes, and especially not in a town where I have the sensation of both being able to do as I please in a way I’ve not been able to elsewhere, and being under near-constant surveillance by a state apparatus that operates with impunity and randomness. Maybe I’m just paranoid.
When I see this sculpture across from The Eyes, I see a twisted metal abstraction of a gun, pointing straight at those eyes. In a turnabout, the eyes are not placing me at risk, but are themselves under the gun for seeing anything at all, for noticing what’s happening across the street. Paranoid? Maybe. But that’s the thing with art, the viewer brings not just any old disembodied eyes, like these at the Square, but eyes emerging with a body in context, with a history of sight. And I can’t help but see, in this place, some justified paranoia.