Is the container half empty or half full? That’s the classic question posed by a new sculpture in the reading garden at Winnipeg’s Millenium Library. It’s a giant beaker, like the sort you’d find in a science lab. It features fog, cascading water and at night a light show. Created by architect Bill Pechet of Vancouver the sculpture is made from 22,000 kilograms of steel.
The Winnipeg Free Press article announcing the installation of the artwork is headlined Ambitious Nothingness and a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report says Emptyful is causing raised eyebrows in Winnipeg because of its $575,000 price tag.
My friend Rebekah, who was visiting from Minneapolis reaches out to touch the water raining down inside the bottom half of the emptyful container. A poster inside the library explains that the sculpture gets its name from the fact that the prairie surrounding Winnipeg is full of empty, boundless space where weather, light, the seasons and people come and go.
The open spaces of the sculpture are meant to frame and highlight Winnipeg architecture. The shape of the container is supposed to suggest an experiment because Winnipeg is a constant experiment and a product of imagination and knowledge.
Emptyful is an impressive piece of art but I do wonder why a Vancouver and not a Manitoba artist was asked to make it. Bill Pechet the sculpture’s designer admits to never having been in Winnipeg till he came here to create the sculpture. I wonder what someone from our province who had more intimate and longterm experience with the local landscape would have created.
Emptyful is lit by a variety of colors at night and those colors will apparently change with the seasons. Emptyful is thought-provoking. Its size is certainly awe-inspiring and it makes an interesting addition to the city’s collection of public art.
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