If you know Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, Central American Legal Assistance, Trans Lifeline or Times Up then you know what are grassroots organizations. That knowledge makes the installation Grass Roots Square by Do Ho Suh so much more impactful. The Korean contemporary artist won an international competition to create the outdoor public art project for the Norwegian government building’s square. It is a permanent exhibition residing in Oslo, Norway since 2013.
From a distance, the installation resembles blades of grass sprouting up among stones, but on closer inspection the ‘grass’ turns out to be tens of thousands of intricately detailed, tiny, green-patinated bronze figures positioned under and between paving slabs.
The figures represent a huge number of individuals of different ages, ethnicities, and genders; together they form a powerful and united mass.
‘Grass Roots Square is at ground level, the same level as the plaza and the public. It is at this level, the grass roots level, where you can truly understand a community.’
-Do Ho Suh
The ambiguous representation of the grassroots as something that is the basis for the existing order, as well as something that pushes itself into view and spreads across the square, is both complex and immediately accessible to most people. The variation of the figures in terms of age, gender and ethnicity offers all viewers the opportunity to identify with the project, and opens up for multiple interpretations.
The project explicitly deals with the issues of power, democracy and the friction between those who govern and the people who are governed.
“Change won’t come from the top, change will come from mobilized grassroots.”
Some pavers in the square have been removed and replaced by tiny bronze statures, 50 thousand of them in total, ranging in height from 8-10cm. They’re standing together, interacting, and some of them are sharing the weight of the paving stones.
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