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One I Like: from Mark Wethli

  • Mark Wethli
  • Professor of Art

Man on Wire

I saw a terrific film a couple of months ago—"Man on Wire," a documentary about Philippe Petit, the French aerialist who walked a tight rope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974; a feat which some have described as “the artistic crime of the century.” I was living in New York at the time, and remember the sensation it caused, but the film brought out the truly breathtaking audacity of his undertaking, not least of all how he managed to get a reliable tight rope strung between the twin towers without the permission or cooperation of the authorities. What no public artist today would dream of doing without approvals and major financial support, he and his friends did pretty much on their own; do-it-yourself public art on a grand scale. Aside from the beauty of the feat itself, and the unexpected effects it had on his personal life, re-thinking this relatively benign and artful transgression, eight years after 9/11, evokes a complex mixture of thoughts and emotions about how much the world has changed in the last thirty-five years.

Posted March 04, 2009