With Pissing Pug Statue, Wall Street Briefly Became Occupied by a Dialogic Garden of Bizarre, Ideologically Feeble Sculptures

Can Pissing Dog recover from the semiotic thrashing it received yesterday from Fearless Girl? And how does Charging Bull feel? Tune in next week to find out!

You probably know the story of how two stupid works of art entered a stupid dialogue with one another at the gateway to Wall Street, but in case you don’t: Charging Bull is a 7000+ pound work of pro-capitalist “guerrilla art” by Arturo Di Modica. It was installed after the market crash in 1987, and quickly became a tourist icon and apparent symbol of empowerment for all those poor investment bankers on their way to work. Thus, despite not being commissioned by the city, it has been never removed from its home in the Financial District’s Bowling Green.

Then, this year, Deus Ex Corporate Feminism arrived in the form of Fearless Girl — a viral-baiting think-piece of a sculpture by Kristen Visbal that superficially appeared to be a symbol of defiance against the patriarchal capitalist violence of the bull, but turned out to actually be essentially sponsored content for the investment firm State Street Global Advisers. Despite this last bit, it was lauded on social media, with the likes of Chelsea Clinton and Jessica Chastain taking to Twitter to praise the symbol:

Fearless Girl also appears to be here to stay, and for a moment today, a third sculpture piled onto the dialogue: a bronze sculpture of a pug, pissing on Fearless Girl‘s leg. The idea of a third sculpture underscoring the fallacies of vacuous corporate empowerment symbols is compelling, and pissing pugs are funny, but alas, the reason for this sculpture’s existence was…also not the most incisive.

Before speaking further on the pug, it is pertinent to backtrack to Fearless Girl, and the sculpture’s existence as a vessel with which to capitalize on the fact real empowerment for women is crucial at a time, and under an administration, set on further compromising women’s rights to further elevate rich white men. Jillian Steinhauer went deep into the implications of the sculpture for Hyperallergic:

The companies that installed it… are advertising firm McCann New York — whose leadership team has only three women among 11 people, or 27% women — and asset manager SSGA — whose leadership team has five women among 28 people, or 18% women. SSGA is a division of State Street, which has a board of directors that includes only 27% women. SSGA is also, according to Wikipedia, the world’s third-largest asset manager, managing more than $2.4 trillion in assets in 2014. And, like any good capitalist behemoth, it has some shady dealings in its history — like the time the SEC charged State Street with misleading investors during the subprime mortgage crisis. Or the class-action lawsuit brought against it for mismanaging retirement funds. Or the over $64 million that the company agreed to pay in January to settle fraud charges brought by the government, as Nick Pinto pointed out in the Village Voice.

But don’t worry about those cheating Wall Streeters who can’t be bothered to take care with people’s investments and lives — Fearless Girl will stop them! She has, as a visitor commented last night, “no doubt” and “no fear”!

The bank denied that self-promotion was their purpose, stating that Fearless Girl was created to stand as a reminder that having more women in leadership positions “positively contributes to overall performance and strengthens our economy.” The motives still seem iffy, though, as does the notion that anything sponsored by an advertising firm and a financial services company could be socially meaningful art.

Unfortunately, this very pointed reason for backlash wasn’t the real reason there was so much backlash: people, likely mostly men, rather, were upset about this besmirching the bull, with Di Modica himself railing against it for undermining the meaning of his art. But Bill de Blasio, perhaps understanding Fearless Girl‘s rekindling of tourist interest, and the shell of positive feminist messaging it could promote, ordered Fearless Girl to stay put for another year.

This brings us back to the pug, which wasn’t so lucky: it didn’t last the day. A large aspect of the reason for the existence of the pug (and the pug’s urine) seems to be a defense of the bull, rather than any sort of lampooning of the girl. The artist, a certain Alex Gardega, does point out the false overtones of Fearless Girl in interviews (“It is advertising/promotion in the guise of art“), but he also seems far too interested in protesting the fact that someone changed the meaning of the original stupid bull sculpture. “It has nothing to do with feminism, and it is disrespect to the artist that made the bull; That bull had integrity,” he told the Post.

Capturing the spirit of nuance-absent Internet reactions, these three “guerrilla” symbols all contribute to a reactionary dialogue that doesn’t really extend beyond the world of symbols: the pissing dog wants to restore the sanctity of the charging bull. Fearless Girl mimics a universal call for women’s empowerment, while actually representing an exclusionary, wealth-gap perpetuating feminism; and the bull is some of the most institution-happy “guerrilla art” ever made.

And then, of course, the Internet got mad at the besmirching of the bank-funded Fearless Girl:

Gardega removed the pug after people started kicking it, and broke its leg. He allegedly, according to CNN Money, repaired the leg, and is now selling the pug — which cost $25 to make — for $10. Perhaps the best sculpture would just be a bucket of piss, flung from the sky onto Wall Street, onto the horrifying, testosterone and money-stuffed Charging Bull, onto the slyly corporate Fearless Girl, onto the reactionary pissing pug, and onto the Internet, too. But then that’d probably be funded by Big Port-a-Potty. And then it’d take a giant statue of a turd funded by Big Plunger to expose that — because apparently the 2017, social media #opinions version of Occupy Wall Street is simply playing an ideologically feeble game of Exquisite Corpse with weird, chunky sculptures.