Washington Square Park’s “Living Statue” Arrested for Performance on Arch

Johan Figueroa-González, Park Performer for Two Years, Fixture at the Arch Now Prohibited from Monument


Washington Square Park’s “living statue” and park regular, Ídem Caeli, was arrested on the Arch by the New York City Police Department Friday April 13 for performing on the monument. Caeli, whose real name is Johan Figueroa-González, was the subject of an extensive New York Times profile in November focusing on his performance on the Arch. He has been utilizing the Arch for his art since last year, even while Ai Weiwei’s exhibit was allowed to take over the space beneath it for four months.

Calie posted about the arrest and imprisonment on Instagram last night. He told WSP Blog: “I was arrested last Friday. My case is still in court. They took everything from me in the middle of my performance: money, uniforms, cellphone. My question is why? Michael Wilson from The New York Times wrote an article about my performance on the Arch and now its looking like something illegal because I was performing on a national monument? Ai Weiwei took the Arch in a period of four months.”

Yes, the question is… why now? And who decided?

Prohibited from Performing on the Arch | Arch Recently Graffitid

Caeli was first given a warning by the police officers on Friday but he said he “rejected to leave the Arch because I was performing.”

The police pulled him off the Arch and he was in jail “for 30 hours.”

After all this time of utilizing the Arch in this way, it is curious that this decision to prohibit his performance occurs now, especially after Ai Weiwei was allowed to take over the Arch 24/7 from October through February, in a case of corporately sponsored art (which garnered controversy for its lack of community input) vs. grassroots/street art.

Recent graffiti on the Arch, somehow connected to this decision..?



In the New York Times article, Calie spoke of the park ecosystem:

He had heard of Central Park and wanted to visit to scout performance spaces, but he didn’t know where it was. Someone suggested Washington Square instead, with its tradition of performers. …

He was unfamiliar with the park’s performer ecosystem. “The sand man told me, ‘That’s my space,’” he said, recalling the artist who made murals with colored powder. “I put the pedestal close to the fountain and the musicians told me, ‘You’re too close.’”

He approached the Washington Arch and climbed on. “My feet fit in the bottom ledge,” he said.

He reached up.

“When I extend my hands,” he said, “everything is where it’s supposed to be.”

Before a performance, Mr. Figueroa-González spends about two hours near the arch, getting ready. He neatly applies white paint on his face and narrow frame, then dusts himself with a layer of baby powder or flour to create the texture of a sculpture.

He wraps a gray cloth over his buzz cut and shapes it like a statue’s headpiece, using pins to keep its shape. When he’s ready, he approaches the arch with flourish and bows.

Top photos: Santiago Reyes
Second image via Caeli instagram
Photos of Arch: unknown source

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9 thoughts on “Washington Square Park’s “Living Statue” Arrested for Performance on Arch”

    • I liked the statue man….nice art. Sometimes you have no make sacrifices to do your art.

      Police state?

      It will get much worse once the conservaphobes have their way, repeal the 2A and confiscate all the guns. Once the guns are gone the citizens have lost all ability to fight tyranny. Just look at the UK. First the rifles go, then the pistols are called in, now the knives are being confiscated. In the UK people can’t even own pepper spray.

      Well, whether gun lover or gun-grabber, in the 1960’s it was illegal to sing in the park. Crazy huh?

      https://www.npr.org/2011/04/09/135240040/how-the-beatnik-riot-helped-kick-off-the-60s

  1. What a shame. He delighted people. He fascinated people. He is a victim of “vanishing New York.” Quirky and imaginative shops, restaurants, pencil stores and performers are going bye bye replaced by mall stores. Too bad I moved back to New York just as it was becoming corporate America.

  2. This is outrageous. He is a beautiful, harmless artist we have all grown to love.

    DeBlasio is hard to reach—I could find no phone numbers to leave a message, but he can be emailed from the Mayor’s website. Please, let’s all do that.

    Let’s not accept this.

  3. All the performers should be banned from the parks. The parks should be reserved for the recreational use of citizens, not nutbags who create a circus to get paid. Enough. The crazy woman who clicks and clicks all day needs to be put out of our misery. Why do the nutbags have first rights to our public space?

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. To be continued …
    as always, at Washington Square Park.

    best,
    Cathryn
    WSP Blog

  5. I was truly amazed that took real imagination , and It was pure elegance . One of the cities pleasures Will be missed. Don

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