It’s been 37 years since Philippe Petit pulled off his high-wire act between the Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan, an act of ethereal daredevilry that inspired the acclaimed documentary Man on Wire, as well as Colum McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin, which won the National Book Award in 2009.
The performance that aerialist Seanna Sharpe gave on the Williamsburg Bridge last night is unlikely to achieve the iconic status of Petit’s walk. But for 15 minutes, dozens of New Yorkers stood enthralled as she twirled and swooped above them. Sharpe and her accomplice were arrested when she descended, likely to be charged with trespassing, reckless endangerment, and obstructing governmental administration.
“There is no why,” Petit responded when asked why he walked the wire at the World Trade Center. The Wall Street Journal, which has a good writeup of Sharpe’s performance, reports that her motivation was “personal”:
“My goal is to face my fear and to inspire others to face their fears,” Sharpe said in an interview before she went up the bridge. She said she recently climbed the bridge twice in the middle of the night to gauge how difficult it would be to suspend herself from the top of the tower.
“The first time I did it, I didn’t make it to the top I was so scared. The second time the adrenaline was running high,” Sharpe said.
You can argue that this was an irresponsible stunt. That it diverted police from more pressing concerns. That it exposed the lack of security on the city’s bridges. That it potentially endangered other people. (Sharpe did say she chose the Williamsburg Bridge because it would be possible for her to do the act and be invisible to cars. She didn’t want to cause a crash.) You could argue that Sharpe is, in the words of a commenter on Gothamist, an “attention whore.”
But I’ve got to admit, I find it hard to resist the sheer beauty of form on display in the video by Ava Fedorov (via Gothamist), as the human body, the swooping aerial silks supporting it, and the steel girders of the bridge are silhouetted together against the evening sky of the city.