How to Meet an Angel
A work of public art is contextual, site specific and has numerous layers of meaning that take time to uncover and present themselves to the public. The world is moving at an alarmingly fast pace and we are all running with it to keep pace, or is it the other way round? There are more than one points of view and there always are hundreds of interpretations depending on who is doing the interpretation.
In the fast paced lives that we lead there are bound to be moments when we lose faith in ourselves, the surroundings, our loved ones or pretty much everything that keeps us going. These are the times when we look up to someone for hope, help, and a shred of positivity in our lives. Mental health institutions or psychiatric clinics have been known to do exactly this with a professional outlook.
Amsterdam is an eclectic destination for fun, fashion, and the arts. Innovative ideas and creative exploration finds a great release and a conducive environment in Amsterdam. The social psychiatric clinic in Amsterdam got an artistic splash when Ilya & Amelia Kabakov made a gift of a public installation to them.
This installation called “How to Meet an Angel” caused quite a stir in the area and in the overall art community as a wide range of interpretations started surfacing. Atop the clinic there is a ladder leading up to the skies and a man with a backpack is climbing it with his arms stretched out towards the sky.
The intended emotion is that of hope, support and the gradual yet painstaking process and road to recovery. It has been interpreted to indicate that he is ready to leave the clinic, to embrace a new life in the city, and meet his own guardian angel. While a good number of people see it the other way round and feel that it is a call or portrayal of suicide by falling off of the ladder or an intended jump.
The artists have their own interpretation in place. Perceiving a vertical climb or an ascending line as a positive concept the ladder is a metaphor for progress. The underlying idea that they set out to convey is that the man in distress must take it upon himself to work to restore his life. This progress or effort was symbolized by the ladder. The backpack on the man is an indication towards the mental baggage that he has been carrying around. It was an endeavor of the artist couple to create a psychological image to provide a human accent to the building. The figure is placed in a way that his gaze and hands are stretched upwards, a metaphor for hope, faith and symbolizes hope for improvement and the quest of recovery.