Reuters

Great public art, or the setup for a hilarious jet-ski accident? You be the judge.

Visitors to Rio de Janeiro know that the beaches are a prime spot for people-watching. But nowadays, it is the beachgoers themselves who are being watched – by a 39-foot-tall, alabaster head staring serenely from the waves.

The colossal coconut is the work of Paris and Barcelona-based artist Jaume Plensa, who is participating in "Other Ideas for Rio," a festival of public art that also includes works by ambient musician Brian Eno and earth-hacker Robert Morris. Titled Awilda, the female head stands watch off the shore of Botafogo Beach, eyes closed as if she could care less about the lotion-slathered minions gawking in wonder at her glabrous dome.

Jaume took two months to fashion the seafaring noddle from resin and marble dust, and then mounted it on a special floating platform constructed by a local shipyard. It shares a similar facial theme with his earlier works, notably the Crown Fountain at Chicago's Millennium Park – dude really likes making big heads. According to the Galeria Leme, which is running an exhibit of Jaume's art, Awilda is a "beacon of tranquillity" that is intended to serve as a mirror into the "thoughts and souls of viewers." So please stop whacking at it with your pool noodles.

Other Ideas for Rio is an ambitious attempt to revamp Rio's international arts scene. Say the organizers:

The name OiR—“Rio” spelled backwards—refers precisely to the idea of thinking about the city in a different way. The project aims to revive and update the tradition of invoking an outsider’s gaze over the Rio de Janeiro landscape, initiated when adventurers and European explorers in the earliest expeditions moored their vessels in the bay to attempt unveiling and translating the mysteries of the new territory.

More photos from Reuters photographer Pilar Olivares:

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