TriMet is removing its 12-year-old Living Room sculpture from the Gresham Transit Center—because too many loitering teenagers are sitting in the concrete furniture.
The sculpture will be dismantled at the end of October and returned to its creator, artist Tamsie Ringler.
"Completed in 2001, the artwork has raised safety and security concerns since 2008," writes TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch. "The work became physically degraded and was fully restored in 2010. Three years later the artwork is again in disrepair and the plaza area remains a safety concern."
This is a guarded way of saying that the stone Living Room—which includes a pink couch and a high-backed yellow chair carved out of concrete, with a coffee table and a hypnotically glowing television set—has long attracted young (and often intoxicated) people to use it as an actual living room.
WW spent a night at the sculpture in May 2012, while riding public transit for three straight days. Here's a portion of what we saw:
Living Room has become notorious as a local party spot for teenagers and twentysomethings. It’s 10:30 on Sunday night, and a tall, thinly bearded man with a Chicago White Sox cap and heavy plastic earrings in his stretched earlobes is freestyling hip-hop rhymes.
“If we stay here for more than five minutes, they’ll throw us out of here, throw us in jail,” says the rapper, whose name is Anthony.
“They’ll toss you to the wind, man,” says Brandon, a long-haired blond whose jeans are barely supported at his hips by a belt with a huge gold buckle. He’s sitting on the couch.
Public transit exerts a magnetic pull for people on the fringes of society. It represents motion and escape and possibility—even if they’re not taking the opportunity. That may explain why young people who aggressively project despair so often hang out on TriMet. It offers direction and movement. It offers hope.
Anthony goes to Mt. Hood Community College, and recently began interning with a tattoo artist. Two nights ago, he got drunk with his mentor and got his first tattoo. He rolls up his sleeve to reveal a purple cartoon of a turd, carefully detailed with splat marks, stink lines and two flies.
“He was like, ‘What do you want?’” Anthony recalls. “I was like, ‘A pile of poo.’ So I got a tattoo of a pile of dookie on my arm. For my girlfriend.”
“That’s love,” Brandon says.