Bethan Ryder -- Interior Design, 5/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Public sculpture is often dislocated from its setting—put on a pedestal for all to admire. But for Alastair Mackie's Mimetes Anon, context was all. Crouched on a wall on the plaza of the Economist Buildings, the lifelike bronze chimpanzee drew much of its arresting visual power from that brutalist 1962 London landmark by Alison + Peter Smithson. "The modernist aesthetic served the chimp well, especially since one of my slants was a sci-fi postapocalyptic theme, imagining the moment when humankind gets wiped off the planet, and all the animals return to the city," Mackie says. (Mimetes is Greek for imitator, while anon is of course Shakespearean for an unspecified future time.) Simultaneously "readdressing the traditional bronze figurative portrait," Mackie adds, the enigmatic primate was supposed to be deliberately discomfiting for passing office workers during the two months of the installation.
Mackie's sculpture challenged us to confront human progress and speculate how far we've come, as the seminal office block was juxtaposed with the symbol of our evolution: the chimp, genetically our closest relation. He's watching us. We're watching him. Mimetes Anon unsettles, reminding the viewer of the fragility of our civilization.