“The Safety Bridge”
Back in 1884, the notable Brooklyn Bridge had peaked its completion – but its safety was left in the air with many people dying after a terrible accident that occurred shortly after. This caused many to refuse even crossing the bridge ever again- until Showman P.T. Barnum decided to lead twenty-one circus elephants across to prove otherwise. I figured that something this monumental deserved a memorial.
In particular, this event sparked my interest to create something due to being a vegan; deeply concerned with not only the welfare of the planet but animals too- elephants are the master gardeners of the ecosystem and play a vital part in maintaining life and growth throughout the species- yet are on a fast-tracked train to extinction as a result of poaching for ivory and circus enslavement. Some leading influences in the aesthetic and concept of this piece was not only an ode to its historical background; but I wanted to touch upon the issue of captivity and animal abuse. Circus elephants in particular are taken from their natural, happy homes and herds in Africa- (many times whilst still very young), robbed of mother’s nurture, family interaction, and hauled off to a life of forced performance and entertainment even when ill; punished mentally and physically by ringmasters.
I begun by setting out and evaluating my selected location- if I was going to build this, I needed to get some good photos of the bridge for a decent replica. I decided to focus upon the center of the bridge in particular- if I would have made the entire bridge my project would have turned out too large and would’ve had inadequate time to complete it.
Shortly after, I began brainstorming a list of materials I could use to actually construct this in a simplified and convincing way. I finally decided upon: plywood, wood dowels, wood glue, twelve and fourteen gauge silver wire, and chain.
However, after sketching out some ideas………..
and following through with the initial plans……my plywood began to not only chip but, my dowel measurements were off- so two revisions I had to make was that of wood-gluing the entire piece and painting it.
If this were to be made in full scale I assume I would use a white vinyl coated wire cable for the weaved elephants with steel clasps to attach the cables to pre-existing wires on the bridge. I would also like to memorialize it temporarily as an anniversary piece every year on May 17th (the day of this great parade), with LED environment-friendly tube lights with the phrase on the base of Brooklyn Bridge: “twenty-one elephants crossed this bridge for your safety- 1884.”
Strangely enough, the further I researched to find out more about the constructing of the Brooklyn Bridge; I dug up what seemed to be a parallel universe. The similarities between the dynamics and relationships of architects with workers and elephants with ringmasters was nauseatingly identical. Men were forced to work in absurd conditions; clearly hazardous to human health, with little to no break, dropping to their deaths with lingering diseases and sudden absence all in the name of grandiose architectural ambitions. In all honesty though, I am overjoyed with the fact that this project turned out in a fairly convincing manner- the technical side of its completion was at times frustrating and sometimes frightening with deadlines around the corner. If I had more time, I certainly would have extended the bridge with twenty-one elephants that glowed in the dark; and would probably choose a thinner wire for more precise and accurate lines. I am also pleased that during my final critique people were able to capture some depth and emotion from this in regards to the subject of animal cruelty. Perhaps it will mark as an object to make people more involved with the concerning issue at hand.