“Anything to Say?” is a timely example of what the most relevant works of public art do—challenge the status quo and draw in observers to actually engage and participate in important, yet often overlooked or ignored, issues. Comprised of three life-size bronze sculptures of Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange, the figures stand on matching chairs lined up with a fourth chair that sits conspicuously empty, all in plain view in the middle of Alexanderplatz, a public square in Berlin often referred to as simply “Alex.” Viewers can join the three whistleblowers by standing on the empty chair, using it as a platform to say whatever they want about freedom of speech—or anything else—to the crowd of hundreds that gathered there today.
The sculptor, Davide Dormino, shares his thoughts on the work:
I believe in acts. Public art has the power to make people grow and change their point of view. The chair has a double meaning. It can be comfortable, but it can also be a pedestal to rise higher, to get a better view, to learn more. They all chose to get up on the chairs of courage. They made their move in spite of becoming visible and thus judged. Many thing they are traitors and terrorists. History never had a positive opinion of contemporary revolutionaries. You need courage to act, to stand up on that empty chair even if it hurts.
One question I’d put out there is, Why does "Anything to Say?" depict Bradley Manning instead of Chelsea Manning? Perhaps it's because she was still a man when she first passed information to Wikileaks, but this issue of gender would be an interesting question to pose to the sculptor.
On another note, the empty chair in “Anything to Say?” also reminds me of the empty chair found in the life-size bronze Peace Monuments dedicated to the “comfort women” issue. Also important works of public art, these bronze sculptures can be found in several sites around the world now, depicting a young girl sitting in a chair alone, next to a matching empty chair. Like “Anything to Say?”, the empty chair in the Peace Monuments invites viewers to physically engage with the art as well. Publics the world over would be fortunate to have more art works like both of these in the future.