Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Common Man Walks Off The Bridge Again

Clet Abraham’s street art is frequently shown by the alteration of common street signs throughout Florence. But his anarchic acts don’t stop with a few signs (remember, he put the nose on the Tower of San Niccolò). In a town mired in a 500-year-old artistic patrimony, Clet continues to bemuse residents and visitors alike. Now the Common Man is back on Ponte alle Grazie.

Clet's Common Man taking a step off the Alle Grazie Bridge (Photo by Francesca Boni)
Clet's Common Man taking a step off the Alle Grazie Bridge (Photo by Francesca Boni)

One night last week, Clet and a couple of friends re-installed Common Man, a life-size black fiberglass statue, without permission, on Ponte alle Grazie, so that once again he is walking off into the future over the Arno River. Make sure you visit him before the powers-that-be mandate his removal … again.

Common Man (Uomo Comune) bears a striking resemblance to the black cut-out figure on Clet’s altered street signs. The bridge-jumping statue, which from a distance looks like it is made of heavy iron, is enjoyed by all (except perhaps the die-hard cultural naysayers) with photographs going viral on the internet. In 2011, Common Man was removed after seven days later city officials, taking weeks and a Facebook campaign to get the statue back into Clet’s possession.

Capturing bothe the Sun and the Moon (Photo by Francesca Boni
Capturing both the Sun and the Moon (Photo by Francesca Boni)

Alexandra Korey of arttrav.com asks “Is lack of permission an essential part of Clet’s art? Position and surprise are elements that contribute to the meaning of the works. Common Man walks perpendicular to traffic on the bridge, proud and determined as he takes the first step in his battle against bureaucracy and the daily grind. His removal, Clet admits, is part of the plan but ‘one can always hope that they might see the light and leave it up, at least for a little while longer.’”

Into the Sunset with Common Man (photo by Francesca Boni
Into the Sunset with Common Man (photo by Francesca Boni)

Alexandra continues by quoting Clet: “The Common Man statue is intended as a stimulus to take an important and risky step. It represents one of those moments on one’s life in which one needs to make a decision even not knowing its consequences (the void below him is this unknowingness). So Uomo Comune decides to take this step, and invites everyone to do it. The irony lays in being part of this dangerous spectacle from the safe side of the railing. The act is permanently frozen in limbo, being a sculpture that doesn’t move and will never finish stepping out, and so will never know if his choice was the right one or not – the only way for us to know is if we were to try it ourselves.”

Tuscan Traveler looks forward to whatever Clet thinks up next to surprise and delight Florence.

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