It’s the last of our 12 weeks of Artful Summer!
Art Idea #12 – Sometimes Artists Perform!
For our final week we dive into the world of Public Art, Performance Art, and Flashmobs.
For 11 weeks now we’ve been making things. Objects. Some have been physical objects like a drawing or a zine. Others have been photos or video that exist in a slightly virtual or digital space.
But all of it has been works by an individual. You made something. If someone wants to, they can look at what you did and think about it. In class we’ve looked at each other’s work and commented. Your comments have been great because they complete the circle of art.
If you kept making art, you’d probably be exhibited in a small gallery or perhaps a coffee shop. If you continued to make art you might find your way into larger galleries over time. And if you were more and more successful, eventually into art museums. There even more people could look at your work. At some point major art critics might write about your work. It’s all part of your rocketsled to the top of the art world.
Through all of that, you made things and people could look at them. They were sort of interactive in that the looking and talking completes a circle. But the making, the objects, come entirely from you.
This week we’re going to move from Objects to Experiences. And we’re also going to move from “me” as all seeing artist, to interactive experiences where your audience/participants contribute to and shape the experience. We’re not just going to offer stuff for the public to look at, we’re going to interact with them.
Years ago “Public Art” meant that when somebody built an office tower they bought a huge, heroic steel sculpture from Alexander Calder or Mark di Suvero and plopped it on the ground in front of the big tower. Some people call this “plop art.” Don’t get me wrong, Calder and di Suvero are very compelling artists, but over time, Public Art has become more “public”.
Today when we say “Public Art” we often mean art that includes the public. Last summer, when it wasn’t a pandemic, I went out to Venice Beach and created a project I called “Love Beach”. I took signs, paints, pastels, and wooden stakes and invited people to make signs about love and stick them in the sand near the Venice Beach Art Walls. And actually, next to a big Mark di Suvero sculpture.
The “amateur” signs that people made were not individually “great art”. They were simple expressions by mostly non-artists on the beach. But the Public Art project wasn’t about some sort of Picasso-like genius, it was about creating a scenario for people to interact and think about art.
My friend Brian does juicing at art galleries. If you just walked in you might wonder if he was a Robek’s employee. He’s not. It may look “pedestrian”, but Brian’s juicing is an art action. You pick what things you’d like him to juice for you and while he’s doing it you have a nice conversation about almost anything. It looks “pedestrian”, but in Brian’s hands it is a deeply thoughtful art experience. When it’s done, the juice is gone and the conversation is over. There isn’t an object to sell in a gallery. There was only the experience. It’s nice that some things, like the Mona Lisa, are preserved for many years. But not all art has to be that. Art can be ephemeral. It can exist in moments. In experiences. In interactions.
You might think that trying to do Public Art during a pandemic is hard or crazy. I think we can do it.
One thing to think about is that art is a conversation. Sometimes it’s an Art Historian with a PhD writing about some famous work. Sometimes it’s your classmates posting feedback on your Medium. Sometimes it’s Brian juicing for people.
Public Art, Performance Art, or a Flashmob
Your Public Art, Performance Art, or Flashmob this week doesn’t have to gather a bunch of people at Venice Beach. It doesn’t have to be some elaborate marriage proposal at Disneyland. It can be something small and personal.
Maybe you do something different in your house and see how your roommates or family react. Maybe you invite roomates or family to make some drawings or write sentences with you for a small journal on the pandemic. Maybe you make a grid of squares in chalk on the sidewalk in front of your house, and then leave chalk and a note, “fill in the blank”.
As always, I’m definitely not asking anyone to go out, be in public, or leave the safety of home with this project. I’m only asking you to think of something small that you can do. It doesn’t have to be seen by lots of people to be interesting or meaningful.
In your career you will need to present information to people. Whether you’re an accountant, in business marketing, marine biology, dance, or anything else, you have to communicate. We all know how sleep inducing PowerPoint is. Can you think of ways to interact with colleagues and peers that are not you simply saying “here’s my art” or “here’s my spreadsheet”? Can you think of interactions that really are interactions. Where you might not know how things will turn out. Where you draw on the strength of your team to innovate and find solutions. By designing in interaction you not only afford yourself a much wider solution-space, but you also create informed colleagues who better understand and hopefully support your project solution. Working in public is a powerful tool for art, business, and many other endeavours.
- Think of some modest Public Art, Performance Art, or tiny Flashmob that you can execute within the space of your home, or whatever space you are currently occupying. Thinking about that space, whether it’s total home isolation, being out camping, or however else you might be living ATM, is a great way to start thinking about your project ideas.
- Perform your project
- Document it on Medium with Photos or a Video
- What was your concept?
- How did you choose to execute your concept? Why that strategy?
- How did it go? Did people do what you expected? Were there surprises? Insights?
- Name your Medium post: Week 12 – Public Art
Our artists this week are Marina Abramovic and Paweł Althamer. You should find plenty of information on both online. Describe their work. Compare and contrast. Discuss what the work means to you.
Name your Medium post: Week 12 – Artist – Abramovic-Althamer
For our final feedback, you can again choose between 5 texts or 1 video.
Optional EC #1
If you need a few points, or would just like to help create a better Art 110 for future students, you can write an extra Medium post on feedback on the class for up to 25 points of EC.
- What was the best thing about this class?
- What was the least good thing about this class?
- What’s your #1 suggestion to make the class better in the future?
- Did the integration of BeachBoard with the Class Website work for you?
- How did you like posting your work on Medium?
- What did you think of the weekly activities?
- What did you think of the Artist of the week?
- How did you feel about the classmate feedback?
- With each week’s activity, I included a “Useful” paragraph where I tried to think about how this art activity not only taught you a little about my world but could also have some usefulness or relevance to your world. Was the “useful” section useful? Did you find any value in my thoughts there? Or did it just seem like I was trying too hard to justify things?
- Name your Medium post: Week 12 – EC – Class Feeback
Optional EC #2
Anybody need a few more points of EC? If so, here’s up to 25 more. We’ve now tried a dozen different activities. Pick any one to repeat. It might be one that you thought didn’t go so well and you’d like to try it again. Or it might be one that did go well and you’d like to explore it further.
Name your Medium post: Week 12 – EC – Activity Redux
It’s been nice sharing a bit of summer with all of you. It was great hainging out with some of you at the optional Un-Final on Zoom. Good luck next semester and in life beyond. If you ever have questions down the road, drop me an email. Or just say “hi” and LMK how your life is going.
Happy Trails to you!
& continue to express your humanity!