Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The Cocoon initially strikes me as a relatively uninteresting project, but the discourse about it’s varying functions and implications takes on a fascinating form as this text unfolds. The section about space and time is a bit nebulous--some of the strongest concepts come when they relate these notions to architecture. The very fact that there might be some need for a proxy for disconnection, that we would need a physical object to remove ourselves from the terrors of an information society is very intriguing. I wonder how effective it is at escaping this world? If anything, The Cocoon’s power comes through the fact that it highlights and defines the state of psychosis in developed, technocratic societies. The authors mention how stressed we all are, but are we any more stressed than 100 years ago? We don’t choose to unplug. We like our social networking, our inter-connectedness. The Cocoon shows that people are unable to choose moderation in respect to technology and social interaction anymore than food, alcohol, sex, etc. That is the true power of the piece.
I found myself thinking of various forms of meditation, found on almost every continent. Why is a physical object needed to instigate a meditative state? The Cocoon is evidence that we now require a device, a proxy or an application with which to interface with to achieve what was always possible (think Wizard of Oz). The impact of this piece is truly in its commentary of Western society. Perhaps we can use our technocracy to find a middle ground, a moderation between the stressful space we have created and all other types of space?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Assessment and Treatment Using Virtual Reality
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
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
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.
I remember tons of screaming kids curling up in them and ripping the shade down so their parents couldn’t find them, and I thought, “where can I find the adult version?” It also reminded me of a 1 day class challenge to create a wearable out of wood scraps in 4 hours, and I decided to (poorly) create a cocoon / beehive shaped pine “hood” to hide most of my skin to attempt to erase my race in an effort to avoid a question I am asked at least every three weeks (mostly by African American children) ---“are you mixed?”
I think that this text was really interesting as is this project, and the cocoon’s form has obviously been borrowed for many utilitarian and other artistic practices. The portion of the text that spoke to me the most was on pages 827-828
“Speaking of space as a social, physical, mental, and cultural implies the introduction of relationships. Spaces are mediators of relationships, they are incorporate action, and Lefebvre argues that the conceptualization of space implies the construction of a tool for analyzing society. Space, says, Lefebvre, is not a thing but a number of relations between objects, artifacts, and living entities. Hence space is relational, concerns the physical and is produced through human interaction with humans and/or non humans (Latour, 1997).”
I think this is the most valuable way to look at space, is not s a locale, but as a relational grouping. By viewing space this way within artistic practice we can expand our conceptual implications. Thinking about space in terms of relations can and should influence the space(s) in which we see our own work existing.
The Cocoon is a piece that broke the mold of the traditional views of space. "You carry your space of calm and quite in a bag, to be used when you need it." In a way I think we all have something that we consider our Cocoon; the space underneath a blanket, with our head covered by a hooded jacket, or finding solitude in the comfort of an ikea chair.
But, once she became independent and established herself, she could feed that need. Now, she could transport and transform herself into various different people. Experience the same breath of fresh air in a geographically and culturally alien space has a totally different feel to it. The cocoon here which was supposed to shut out outside influence from the social space as you inhabit or experience it and still managed to travel and transform its intended purpose by having a life of its own. She just got back from a tour to another country where she was supposed to wear a veil in public to go around.
I could not stop from comparing it to the cocoon. She had the time of her life in this place where she says the civilization is so unspoilt and so very less exploited that even through all the restrictions she had a peaceful and mind numbingly rollicking experience there. She rates it the first among all the countries she's traveled and Switzerland comes next close to second place.
Having said that butterflies come out of cocoons. And the cocoon is one of the avatars of the butterfly when it is young. Even though it is invisible to the naked eye I see cocoons around everyone and everything in this world. Enough of my rambling now. Overall I think the design spoke to me in various physical, social, metaphysical and cultural levels.
A Hindu Woman from 100 years ago in her cocoon!
I can't see her.. can you?
As the Peter Dobers and Lars Strannegård point out in The Cocoon-A Traveling Space, the art work Cacoon by Jennie Pineus is worthy of consideration on a number of levels. The work intuits and reflects our construction and conceptualization of space, and the various journeys of the piece prompt us deconstruct our notions of space across broad swaths of symbolic, representational, and physical space and time.
This deconstruction runs counter to our built up universe, but parallels its long-term entropic state. In his talk "World With Us, World Without Us" as part of the Long Now Foundations series on Long-term thinking, Alan Weisman points out (.mp3 is free) that despite the damage we have done to the world in our short existence here, if we went away tomorrow, Earth planet would get along just fine without us. Instead of using this claim to support notions that humans are incapable of wrecking the planet, he sees this as a hope that we can turn the tide of the damage - that the damage we are doing is to ourselves only. He makes the environmental personal, and asks, if Nature took its course, would it include us?
My thesis work also explores some of ideas of geographic space embedded in Cocoon. Andyland-Ukraine investigates being a global citizen - a perspective that strips away many layers of identity to get to care ideas of alterity and reciprocity. In this role in my thesis semester, I am a student, a Chicagoan, and Illinoisian, a Midwesterner, an American, a Westerner, and an artist. That's quite a bit of cruft to contend with. But at the end of the day, I am exploring being a global citizen - acting in the role of international relations: a diplomat, an agitator, an activist (and researcher).
Expressed within the work are transnational boundaries, reciprocity and alterity of public and social spaces and the systems that mediate them, as manifested in the physical, economic, political and symbolic realms.
Alberto Duman attempts to frame what public art is what it can be and some of the theoretical considerations that deserve expression in getting there. He aptly deconstructs the economic and political purpose of attempts at public art programs in the place and time in which he writes (the UK recently, including the runup to London's Olympic games in 2012). Duman's criticisms range from the theoretical considerations of gallery space (a la Robert Smithson), to criticism of the bureaucracy of public art as serving the interests of the art world, and not the public, or attempting to impose an art agenda on communities rather than provide negotiation or discourse.
In her untitled statement Catherine Harty responds to the very definition of public art with a quote from Chantal Moufee: "Critique that public art is not art that is in a public space, but art that institutes a public space, a place of common action among people." To this end the project we have been assigned to create a "social space" and this edge of social/public is an area I am interested in exploring further and am currently doing so in my thesis work. To clarify Harty's point a little further, we can deconstruct Harty/Mouffe's statement or quote: whose public is it? How do we contextualize public?
Claire Doherty seems to chime in with the answer. Site specificity is the key indicator of a public artwork or one that attempts to comment upon publicness and socialness. Is a public artwork the same contextualized in say downtown Chicago vs Tiennamen Square? I would say "no". Thus Duman's assessment that publicness is relative to the discourse on the relations (via Bourriand) betwen the makers, audience or community and the bureaucracy that surrounds it is poignant. My recent work explores this are as well. In Andyland-Ukraine, I attempt to juxtapose two notions of personal/social/public space to investigate relationships, economic political in the realm of artistic discourse.
Monday, March 1, 2010
"We seek to understand spacing activities behind the travels and view the travels from a spatial
perspective focusing on the relation between transportation and transformation,
of emptiness, form and content."
This exciting role of logistics manager/coordinator/tracker is something on the nexus of new media, a conceptual new media in my opinoin - in like with what Duchamp did to traditional arts - this can do for new media and other current media work. It is not also exciting but one of teh economically viable ways of producing work. The focus isn't on the chair, if it goes well with other furniture, or if someone breaks their neck sitting on it - but the attention around and about it and what the work generates in terms of response, critical and whimsical.
The authors as "how did this happen?"
It had to happen, as many movements have democratized art production and appreciation, there is then a failure of agency. The power dynamics of exhibition and representation also drop out when this democratization happens. The artist find themselves ina strange place as maker, diacourse, historian (past, present, and future), marketing director, and the person funding the construction of the work, even if conceptual and only the time is labored.
Indeed creating participatory and temporary works would not only be cheaper and friendly, but also leave the canvas blank for scores of artists to create multiple work upon at later times. Instead of thrusting large expensive sculptures into a public square why not choose the work of local Chicagoan Joshua Dumas, http://summerfireflies.com - work that ring in harmony with the arts, theater, that are fluid sculptures and full of abilities to have meaningful dialogue on current contexts.
Duman nicely makes all of his text safe to the standard copy and paste, making citing his work difficult. Here is a screen grab of the section quoted:
In this act Duman portrays not only the artist trying to make a public work, as in the Breaking Ground Research Papers document, but also becomes the institution and corporation trying to protect or obscure what is rightfully his - and if not he then the publisher of the document, yielding to guilt by association.
Duman's conclusion of the "current cultural climate... the amnesiac and sealed conditions into which most activity of public art seem to take place" hits the head on the nail as he might put it. While many artists would love for every detail to fall under "poetic serendipity", I have found that engaging in public works is taking on a serious shopping list of additional concerns, but also a challenge to hold tight to that serendipity with an added sense of focus that take into account real concerns worthy of my time.