John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Belgians love giving their Manneken Pis fashion makeovers – just not this one.
The people of Brussels love to put their little-peeing-boy statue through festive costume changes – a Santa suit in wintertime, Count Dracula, a red-leather garment when they're in an Eastern groove. In fact, the Manneken Pis has more than 800 costumes stuffed into its wardrobe at the Museum of the City of Brussels, some so old and weather-beaten they're no longer suitable for the light of day.
So you'd think they have a little compassion for an outsider who tried to give the statue his own fashion makeover. But nope, the shining-gold effigy that artist Petro Wodkins recently swapped for the Manneken was taken into police custody, and Wodkins himself is being pursued across Europe by legions of pike-bearing grenadiers thirsting for his head on a platter (well, not really).
Wodkins is a Russian performer who's on a mission from God to revolutionize the global art-scene. Apparently God told him that he should craft a little model of himself urinating, and then put it on a fake pedestal to obscure the real peeing boy. Why? As Wodkins explains:
Let's face it. Belgium is a boring little country. And Brussels is a boring city. Filled with boring tourists.
In the center of Brussels there is a horrible little statue. A small pissing boy. Where the tourists gather.
What would happen if we changed the horrible little statue for something beautiful?
Like a statue of Petro. Would the tourists even notice?
What I first came across this bit of street art, I thought that Wodkins himself had painted his body gold and then climbed in front of the statute, which would have been bold. Sadly this was not the case, although he did give the artwork an air of verisimilitude with a tube dribbling water from the effigy's nether regions.
Have a look at "PISSING PETRO," as the artist calls his intervention. You'll find better pictures of it at his website, which may or may not be NSFW depending on your boss' tolerance for metallic private parts:
Top photo courtesy of Niels Mickers on Flickr