MIDDLETOWN, CT.- Emanating from all directions, stainless steel lines in the ground converge on a dark granite circle in the concrete pavement. Inside the circle, the criss-crossing lines form an erratic pattern, suggesting intersecting paths at cross-purposes—the inevitable conflicts the Justice System must adjudicate. Each line, at its own designated point within the circle, rises from the ground as a three-dimensional diagonal line and connects with a segment of the circular handrail—the complete circle that symbolizes the consensus we citizens share and agree to abide by in a civil society. The full circle of the handrail is both symbolically and structurally held up and stabilized in space by the multiple lines rising from the ground-plane.
The radiating lines in the concrete pavement draw the visitor toward the Rail of Justice. The visitor—whether judge, juror, plaintiff, or accused—grasps the rail as he/she enters or exits the courthouse, ritually reaffirming fidelity to the justice system. Rather than merely experiencing the sculpture visually, the visitor has the more penetrating ritual experience of touch, bodily confirming the communal covenant. With hands on the Rail, the citizen sees inside the circle the miasma of social exchange, of intersection and conflict, the disorder essential to a free society. But he or she also physically affirms his/her own part in the mutual agreement to live by law in the system of justice constructed for and by the people collectively.
Jeffrey Schiff is a Professor of Art at Wesleyan University.