Work of Art: The Bone by Inges Idee

The Bone is the conceptual brainchild of Inges Idee, the Berlin collective founded in 1992 by four artists who work jointly on projects for public spaces.

Photograph courtesy of Brookfield Residential.

Title: The Bone
Date: 2018
Artist: Inges Idee
Media: High-grade glass paint on cast aluminium.
Size: Dog stands 2.7 metres; bone is about 16 m up.
Location: Seton Professional Building, 3815 Front St. S.E.
Notes: Commissioned by Brookfield Commercial. Fabricated by Heavy Industries. Artist collective Inges Idee also designed the much-maligned Travelling Light (2013) — a.k.a. the “Blue Ring” — near the interchange of Airport Trail and Deerfoot Trail.

The lustrous purple pup on the sidewalk in Seton comes as a surprise. From afar, the vivid colour signals something out of the ordinary in the newly developed area around the South Health Campus. Up close, its toy-like character bids you to enter a place of wonder.

Spending time in the company of the giant and spirited dog will take your mind for a walk as you gnaw on the questions of how and why this creature inhabits the space. If you think the breed looks like a balloon dog, look again. Start with those remarkable ears to puzzle out its anatomy. Dog-lovers will recognize the look of longing and the pose of a problem-solver. What has caught its attention? Is it mere coincidence that our friend stands alert outside a radiology lab?

The Bone is the conceptual brainchild (brain-pup?) of Inges Idee, the Berlin collective founded in 1992 by four artists — Hans Hemmert, Axel Lieber, Thomas A. Schmidt and Georg Zey — who work jointly on projects for public spaces. Inges Idee has an impressive track record of approximately 60 projects in locales around the world, including Germany, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Japan, Korea and Singapore. Each member of the collective is also an individual practising artist and brings their experience to the group-brainstorming process.

When asked how the group developed the idea for The Bone, Hemmert emailed his reply from Germany: “The idea came to us by seeing the [word] ‘radiology’ on the top of the building. A dog is made of bones if you X-ray him. So, the dog is longing for the thing he himself is built of … a tautological situation. It’s a simple story for everyone on the street to discover. The dog is made by his own desire … It is funny, in a way.”

As an individual artist, Hemmert is known for conceptual projects, performative events and signature balloon forms. He has presented experiential work that is often ephemeral or temporary in some of the art world’s most prestigious venues, including MoMA in New York.

Local architectural and design fabricator Heavy Industries managed the planning and fabrication of The Bone. When Hemmert came to Calgary for the installation and reveal, he writes that he was “wowed” by the experience of seeing the concept take form, “in real size and in real life in relation to our own bodies and body size.”

If public art can distinguish a community, then The Bone marks this communal territory, a site of imaging, diagnostics and health care, with a welcome sprinkle of humour.

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This article appears in the December 2021 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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