NORWALK, Conn. — On a cold day last December, 23-year-old artist Katsuki Bakugou stood on West Avenue staring at the SoNo Collection with a huge smile on his face. Through his interpreter, he said, “This has been a dream of mine. This place. This time. Everything is coming together…It will be an event!”
Japanese performance and installation artist Bakugou began talks with SoNo Collection owners Brookfield Properties for his project in the early part of 2019. “It was before the pandemic had become a pandemic and we were approached by Katsuki,” said Brookfield CEO Brian Kingston. “We like to reimagine real estate opportunities and (Bakugou) is exactly the kind of cutting-edge visionary that we like to partner with.”
The SoNo Collection has always had a tentative element to it and “we were looking for new ideas to reimagine the property” said Kingston. “Bakugou suggested letting him use the SoNo Collection as a kind of piece of living art.”
Bakugou explores many postmodern ideas in his art. When asked to describe his art, Bakugou’s interpreter said, “He reconciles capitalism with nature and returns it to its state of involuntary nonanimation. Bakugou believes that we are each a commentary on the existence of the lyric poetry of social media. The temporary state of our commercial existence requests that we acknowledge our unique quantum dreamscapes and the complexity of our time demands the angelic interventions of a type of echolocated epi-gnosticism.”
Bakugou approached Brookfield with several ideas but they knew when they had the right one. Kingston said, “We knew it immediately. It was a big deal and everyone in the meeting knew we had hit something big.”
Simple on its face, Bakugou’s dynamic performance and installation idea is to host a public demolition of The SoNo Collection and then to allow time to take care of the rest.
“It’s really a brilliant piece of art,” said Norwalk Laureate Poet Bill Hayden. “The demolition will be a public event and it will be a type of modern ritual. Many people will come to see the demolition and Katsuki is going to leave all the stores stocked and decorated exactly as they are. The demolition will be very quick but will be artistically countered by leaving the site exactly as it is, 10 minutes after the demolition for the following 10 years. Nature will reclaim it. It will seem to happen slowly but this partnership of artist and nature will happen in a blink in the grand scheme of things.”
Mayor Harry Rilling is excited about the potential for this project and for the tourism draw which will follow. “This is a prime location. It will be easy to come visit and will be another crown jewel for Norwalk. This will be an important piece of art that has the potential to stand the test of time.”
It’s also an homage to the history of the neighboring Oyster Shell Park as a garbage dump, fondly remembered by people who traveled I-95 in those years. And it blocks a backroom State plan to buy the new mall and repurpose it into a minimum-security prison to be called The SoNo Correction.
Rilling has partnered with Liliana Milkova of the Yale University Art Gallery as a consultant. Milkova thinks that this artistic project is an important one.
“Bakugou is making a very self-aware statement about time, commercialism, the changing face of retail and the impact that we have on our environment and he’s doing it all against the backdrop of a global pandemic and one of the worst political evils that we’ve ever seen in known history. It’s very compelling and will demand attention,” she said.
Bakugou is planning on starting his project in early 2022 with a demolition date of Oct. 11, 2022, the three-year anniversary of The SoNo Collection’s well-timed opening just before a pandemic.
When asked about concerns for the safety of residents and structures in the area, Bakugou’s New York-based representatives assured Rilling and his team that they will take every effort to keep the event safe and fun. “This will be a huge event. We want it to be like a party for the city of Norwalk and Katsuki. He has dreamed about a project like this for a long time: it’s really his ‘plus ultra.’ This will be a controlled demolition. It’s not going to be a free-for all. There will be explosions and excitement, but we will do our best to protect the safety or Norwalkers and the integrity of their historic buildings in the area.”
** Editor’s note: This is an April Fools Day joke.