Much like an apology, being present is key to appreciating the performance aspect of this exhibit by Danish artist Michael Elmgreen and Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset, now on display in front of the Aspen Art Museum.
For all but 30 seconds of the day, a polished aluminum megaphone sits within a display case on a granite pedestal at the corner of Hyman and Spring Streets. Every day, promptly at noon, a man walks to the case, unlocks it, removes the megaphone, and shouts through it, "It's never too late to say sorry." He then replaces the megaphone, locks the case, and returns the way he came.
On the day I was there to observe, a few curious passers-by stopped to watch, as well as a couple of people who came out of the museum specifically to catch the performance. There was nervous laughter and some confusion. A woman who paused said, "Well, I suppose this means I need to apologize to my husband."
Since 1995, the Berlin-based artists, who collaborate under the name Elmgreen & Dragset, have created installations, performances, and sculpture around the world, with the purpose of inspiring viewers to think beyond the standard display of art in museums. Instead, they bring art to both public and private places, and connect it to architecture. Much of their work examines the ways in which art is displayed and experienced. This particular installation is a poignant reminder of "the power of language, gesture, and action," according to AAM's website.
Waiting in the cold for the unknown felt uncomfortable, almost silly. Once the daily pronouncement was made, it was like a breath of fresh air. Yes, I had questions, but I quickly realized they were questions for me to uncover, not the performer or the artists. You may wonder, is it art? The Oxford English Dictionary defines art as, "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."
While a shiny megaphone itself may not feel artful, in combination with the display, location, and performance, the emotional power of the message leaves no doubt.
You can experience It's Never Too Late to Say Sorry for yourself every day at noon through May 19.