Conceptual photo of picnic table in airport
  • Conceptual photo of picnic table in airport
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Back in April 2012. we first reported here about Sheryl Oring, a former newspaper writer and editor who was about to embark on a new gig as artist-in-residence at San Diego International Airport.

Oring gave up her journalism career back in the ’90s and pursued her artistic career in Germany, staging Writer’s Block, a one-day exhibit of 600 antique European typewriters tumbled into 21 steel cages arranged on Berlin’s Bebelplatz, the site of an infamous Nazi book-burning exactly 66 years earlier.

Another of Oring’s previous projects involved postcards.

In the spring of 2008, Oring came up with the idea of traveling across America from city to city, taking dictation on an old typewriter from passersby wanting to send a postcard message to the then-still-to-be-chosen next president.

Oring wore a secretarial outfit from the 1960s. “I listen very intently,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “Some people have described it as being like a therapy session.”

Exactly what Oring was going to do in San Diego remained to be seen. Per the directions of airport management, she was to drop into town from her home base at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she is an assistant professor of art, and start by watching what went on at the airport.

“Oring is charged with observing the inner workings of the airport environment, from the day-to-day operations to the executive level.”

Oring’s “process relies heavily on engaging broad-based audiences through the facilitation of public discourse on political, social, historical and personal subjects. Her work is manifested as sculpture, site-specific installations, books and videos.”

The announced pay for Oring’s work involved a "not to exceed" stipend of $8000 over three months; total cost of the project was estimated to be $118,000.

Oring noted that her $8000 initial stipend must cover her transportation to and from the East Coast, as well as food and lodging here. She also expects to receive an honorarium in an amount yet to be determined that will come from the construction expenditure.

On Friday, December 13, Oring’s project, entitled Travel Desk, an oversized take-off on the traditional wood picnic tables found in city parks, was presented at a meeting of the authority's Special Airport Art Advisory Committee,

She described it in a document posted online:

For my Travel Desk installation, I was drawn to the picnic table as an icon of the San Diego landscape.

Initials carved into a tree trunk along a favorite trail or into a wooden picnic table at a beloved spot serve as poignant reminders that we were here, providing an indelible physical mark in an increasingly transitory, digital world.

Typists were a component of Oring's airport project

Typists were a component of Oring's airport project

Echoing Oring's previous efforts employing typewriters and messages from the public, the project featured a line-up of women typists taking dictation from airport workers and passengers as part of the August 2013 "performance" part of the piece.

By pushing the scale of the table itself and carving the table and bench tops with excerpts from the messages typed during the Travel Desk performances, I aim to create an iconic meeting place within the airport, a place where people return to again and again to trace their own stories and read those of others.

No word yet whether the airport’s pricey food concessions will start selling brown-bag lunches.

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monaghan Dec. 16, 2013 @ 10:03 p.m.

Tables look uncomfortable, but I'll bet Su Mei Yu's new airport restaurant offers Thai food to go. Is it also called Saffron?


CaptainObvious Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:24 a.m.

isn't it great that there is enough money for things like this? That table is way more important than fixing bad roads or field trips for school kids.


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