The Fussy Eye: Blink. Don't Blink

Overlooked tunnel art.

You're in a hurry, you're late for your bus, so why give a second's time to Saccadoscopoeia? The black granite panels, on the mezzanine of the University Street tunnel station downtown, appear impassive and unornamented. But as you head down the stairs, what's that red or green flash of light from the vertical slits in the wall? You may never know, unless you commit to a full 10 minutes' inspection of the 1990 installation by Bill Bell. The embedded LED arrays flash in a pattern suggestive both of Knight Rider's KITT and the Cylons on the original Battlestar Galactica. Study them long enough, and you worry they'll cause a seizure. Only after witnessing several cycles does your retina retain the split-second imagery: trolleys, dollar signs, and other motifs of commerce and transportation. But, sadly, the intervals just aren't suited to us harried commuters. Far more friendly and successful is Robert Teeple's 1990 Electric Lascaux at the other (southern) end of the mezzanine: It alludes to the famous cave art with more regular and apprehensible pictographs, which scroll like an 8-bit Atari game. Little red aliens, animals, circuit diagrams, faces, and dingbats are presented ticker-style in 28 horizontal panels. Words and phrases appear in mutable syntax: "Radiant motors warm streets," for instance, drifts off to incoherence and back. (It's like Barbara Kruger without the self-importance.) Unlike Bell's overlooked edifice, Teeple's work can be understood—if fleetingly—despite our haste.

 
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