Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Art U Need

Prior to living in Chicago, I have never had public art forced upon me on a regular basis. I certainly haven’t traveled the entire Midwest, but Chicago seems to have an overwhelming amount of publically commissioned art floating around and there are many instances where I wonder “why is this here, no one bustling around downtown seems to even notice that it exists, they simply have become tourist attractions.”

“The main challenge for those in charge of public art commissions and opportunities, particularly in regeneration, would appear to demonstrate whether they can do anything more than gesturing by shifting from one dominant type of object-based, large scale sculptural output, to a more directly participator, cheaper, friendly, amicable, unassuming type of work, which ticks both the box that assuages the vociferous art constituency in its demands to align public art output with contemporary practices, as well as the box which make sure that at least the public involved and counted for the record, ‘understands’ the work done and will not complain afterwards."

I agree with a couple points first presented in the text, however feel that these things aren’t necessarily the main challenges of public art. In accordance with Joe Baldwin and the text, works that are rooted in participatory action are imperative for public art to flourish and survive. Even at the lowest level, the “bean” (as most Ohioans call it) / Cloud Gate, thrives on simple public interactions--touching, climbing, taking myspace-esque pictures with your friends on its reflective surface. Does that qualify it as a great public sculpture? I am not the person to pass that judgement, but it sure seems to be more ‘popular’ and memorable than the famous Alexander Calder Flamingo positioned not even a mile away.

I think by creating more participatory, temporary, and amicable works, the public art world becomes more accessible to a wider range of people allowing them to also feel as if they are co-creators (specifically when discussing interaction based installations). As co-creators the passive nature of traditional public sculpture slowly has the potential to become eliminated and invites new potential forms for the work to take with each new visitor.

I think the true challenge is to create works that address and meet a certain “high level” of conceptualization but also have the ability to speak to the ‘common’ person (those with no background or even a necessary interest in the arts) without presenting the work as if it needs to be dumbed down for public acceptance/enjoyment. Another challenge is obviously putting this work where everyone can enjoy it. The text and Joe Pankowski both discussed something that I too feel is a problem in public art: the safety of the content, and more importantly the location of its installation (the disparity of public works in poorer communities). This part of the text seemed particularly interesting because it made me think about the fact that we exist in a time where we have such a huge influx of artists who are all about creating works that create social awareness, change, promote interactivity, there are still few artists and institutions willing to produce funds to create works where they are needed for community unification, education, and enjoyment.

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