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Main Street Meltdown

(To read other articles in our Arts-Policy Nexus series click here.)

By Marshall Reese 

As the 2008 election shifted into the final weeks of the campaign, we realized the political focus was shifting toward the economy. Having already melted down Democracy at the conventions a month earlier, we decided to stage a meltdown of the Economy near Wall Street.

Those of you who’ve been following these postings already know that we make monumental ice structures that disintegrate over a day or more. They have the greatest significance when their disappearance coincides with an historical event. We chose the 79th anniversary of the Great Depression for this sculpture, which we called “Main Street Meltdown.”

By the time we launched it, on October 28, our event almost seemed prescient. It happened soon after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, as the Treasury and Federal Reserve attempted to bail out the financial industry.  

The weather during that day varied tremendously, from snow, sleet, and rain to sun and cloudless skies. It felt like the realization of the climactic metaphor with which economic actions are usually compared – especially in the media and particularly at that moment of economic collapse – as an effect of nature rather than caused by society or social values.

The public was visibly startled, as we hoped they would be, to witness a word like “Economy” disappear before their eyes. It gave credence to what many of them felt and were experiencing in their own lives. Throughout the day, the responses to our sculpture were almost universal, whether the viewers were from the UK, Brazil, or Germany. All were effected by the melting global economy. 

Economy weighed over 2,000 pounds and measured 20 feet wide and 5 feet tall. LigoranoReese installed it at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan in front of the New York State Supreme Court building.

Master carver Shintaro Okamoto putting the finishing touches on the ice sculpture. He carves the ice by hand with chain saws and special files in his studio in Long Island City.

The artists pose in front of their sculpture

Throughout the day, hundreds of people witnessed the economy breaking down. They came from all over the world: Brazil, Israel, Ireland, and France included.

Economy melted down really fast, lasting only 12 hours that day.



Marshall Reese and Nora Ligorano collaborate as the artistic duo LigoranoReese. This is their final post in a three part series of their work on the Arts-Policy Blog. 

[All photos courtesy of Nora Ligorano]


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