As part of the Manchester International Festival 2009 the artist Gustav Metzger has been commissioned to design a piece of “poignant new public art.” Standing in the Peace Garden (near the Town Hall and St Peter’s Square) you will find Flailing Trees, a collection of 21 willow trees that have been planted roots up into a plinth of concrete. The purpose of the piece is to “bring nature and the environment into sharp focus” and is a direct response to the issues Look Up is also exploring – why people have disengaged with their surroundings.
Metzger’s sculpture takes something very familiar in the public realm and subverts it to portray a message. It does not appear to stop people in their tracks, many people seem to walk on by or pass it a cursory glance at most. The roots, drying and exposed, still retain that element of familiarity with the branches they have replaced; each upended tree bares a distorted resemblance to some tropical plant, not an unfamiliar object to find in the modern public space. What the sculpture does do is raise the question as to just how far removed have individuals become from their environments that an object, so totally alien, can draw no response?