Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Art U Need |Duman, et al | JD Pirtle

When Duman leaves us with the question, “Do we need public art?”, I find myself wondering why this debate is still raging on. Public art, in the form of large, permanent, sculptural objects has been a vital component of the architectural landscape of societies since prehistory. In the wake of Conceptual art and the collision of art with Capitalism, we have just really (in the past 35 years) begun to question the efficacy the practice. As several of the authors describe, public art is used to whitewash social ills, create atmospheres of prosperity and (in regeneration) “sex up the control of the under-classes.” But, so what if it is an advertising tool for the regeneration of urban centers (Gehry in the Harty text)? Why do the authors of these texts see institutional public art as such a failure? Can’t public art serve varying communities in varying ways? What is so wrong with “looking through the eyes of a tourist” or seeing art through the eyes of members of elitist art enclaves?

It is impossible for public art sponsored by the government to appeal to the majority of its citizens. Corporate sponsored public art will always seem disingenuous in a climate where corporations are simultaneously manipulating government and defrauding the citizenry. I applaud efforts to create socially engaging art projects, to democratize the output of these activities and encounter an alternative culture, but why can’t all of these things coexist? Can’t everyone use art as they wish? I believe that governments should be able to use art for propaganda, obfuscation and deception. I believe that corporations should be able to use art to appeal to consumers sense of culture and importance. I believe that quasi-intellectuals (who don’t proof their writing) should be able to use public art as a subject upon which to belabor political and philosophical leanings. Why can’t “art become a political imperative?” Who says? John Waters?

The power of art is owned by no one, it should be checked by no one.

Seattle's Hammering Man with guerilla art ball-and-chain add -on

The horror of Safeco Field's many objects of public art

Not all propaganda/nostalgia-based public art is bad

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