Whith­er­vanes

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - ART -

They’re ter­ri­ble at gaug­ing wind di­rec­tion, but when trou­bling news is afoot in South Florida, count on Miami’s new brood of head­less chick­ens for help. Start­ing this week, a col­lec­tion of three “Whith­er­vanes,” or head­less chicken sculp­tures, will ap­pear on rooftops across Miami, alert­ing any passers-by about fear- and anx­i­ety-caus­ing head­lines. Sub­ti­tled “an early, neu­rotic warn­ing sys­tem,” “Whith­er­vanes” comes from Rootoftwo, the Detroit-based artist-cou­ple of Cézanne Charles and John Mar­shall. Lo­cust Projects, a Miami De­sign Dis­trict gallery, com­mis­sioned the pub­lic art project, which pre­vi­ously ap­peared in France and Eng­land. “They’re like weath­er­vanes, ex­cept they re­spond to fear in­stead of wind,” says Lori Mertes, Lo­cust Project’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. “This daily bom­bard­ment of bad news has an ef­fect on all of us. It ratch­ets up our anx­i­ety.” Each roof rooster is pow­ered by cir­cuit boards and teth­ered to an in­ter­net con­nec­tion, which pulls head­lines from the Reuters newswire, Mertes says. As they parse key­words such as “war” and “mass shoot­ing,” for ex­am­ple, the “Whith­er­vanes” read a re­port’s lo­ca­tion and spin in the op­po­site di­rec­tion of those GPS co­or­di­nates, as if the news were a gust of wind. They also change colors based on the threat’s sever­ity, light­ing up from red (the most threat­en­ing) to green (the least wor­ry­ing). “I haven’t seen it turn green since we turned it on,” Mertes says. “It hasn’t stopped spin­ning, ei­ther. But I’m hope­ful that it will.” The chick­ens can be found in down­town Miami, atop the Lo­cust Projects build­ing and in the MiMo dis­trict, and also pick up South Florida-cen­tric key­words such as “sea level rise” and “cli­mate change,” Mertes says. The pub­lic can also change the chick­ens’ colors by tweet­ing the hash­tags “#keep­calm” or #sky­falling,” which sym­bol­ize users’ de­sires to not be per­suaded by the me­dia. “You can ei­ther de­cide to have free­dom over how you re­spond, or let fear take over, and you’re like Chicken Lit­tle shout­ing, ‘The sky is fall­ing!’ ” Mertes says. When: Through June 30 Where: Lo­cust Projects, 3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami (De­sign Dis­trict “Whith­er­vane”); 5555 Bis­cayne Blvd., Miami (MiMo “Whith­er­vane”); and 1035 N. Miami Ave., Miami (Down­town “Whith­er­vane”) Cost: Free Con­tact: 305-576-8570, Lo­custPro­jects.org or Whith­er­vanes.com

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