contemporary art, outdoor sculpture, public art

Heather & Ivan Morison, Luna Park (2010)

August 31, 2010

You would think it was put there for the children. The dinosaur stands at a picnic spot, 30ft high, robust enough to throw stones at, as some of the kids are doing. So close to a beach and a circus, a hoverport and an amusement arcade, it looks here like one more piece of spectacle.

The locals are surprised by it, but perhaps not that surprised. Luna Park is based on the roadside attractions which crop up on highways in the US. We have that much context for this monster at least.

In which case we might still raise an eyebrow at the origins of this piece. It was fabricated in Serbia by workers from a now-closed car factory. They used techniques used in making the ill-fated Yugo.

This results in something looming, dark, scary and hollow, which could be seen as a warning against the ideology, as it were extinct, of the former Yugoslavia and the rest of the Eastern Bloc.

But when the children ask the name of this dinosaur, a nearby plaque explains it is an Ultrasauros, a species which never existed. It is a chimera based on two separate sets of bone.

So the work becomes a monument to scientific error and, if in any way a warning, then a warning based on false data. As popular entertainment, dinosaurs and socialism are still alive and well. Just take a look at this evidence gathered very near by…

Luna Park is at Southsea Common, Portsmouth, until 10 October. The accompanying film, An Unreachable Country. A Long Way To Go, can be seen at the Aspex Gallery in the city centre. See website for opening times and directions.

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