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 videos 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.
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. In the summer of 2019, when it wasn’t a pandemic, I went out to Venice Beach and created a project 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. (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 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 art objects 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 writing about different artists. 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 roommates or family to make some drawings or write sentences with you for a small journal on your lives. 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”.
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 besides “here’s my art” or “here’s my spreadsheet”? Can you think of interactions that really are interactions? Now you might not know how things will turn out. Now you draw on the strength of your team to innovate and find solutions. By designing in interaction you afford yourself a much wider solution-space. 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 endeavors.
- Think of some Public Art, Performance Art, or Flashmob that you can execute: in your home, at the beach, at the park, or anywhere else. Think about the nature of the space you’ve chosen. This is a great way to start thinking about your project ideas.
- Perform your project
- Document it on your blog 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 blog 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 blog post: Week 12 – Artist – Abramovic-Althamer
EC Movie Nite: Art & WWII
If you need a few extra points or just a good excuse to eat popcorn with too much butter & too much salt, here you go.
I have 2 films about WWII and Art for you. Yes, WWII was generations ago. Yes, war is depressing. And yes, when Russia invades Ukraine, or China thinks about invading Taiwan, we aren’t all that far off from WWIII. Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine seems to be a lot about the ego of one man. But Putin is only the latest in a long line of Russian rulers who have worked hard to erase Ukrainian culture. If you’re familiar with the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, this was another famous act of erasing culture.
Both of these films are about someone’s attempt to erase someone else’s culture. There are documentaries on both that will give you more detailed information. Still, these theatrical films are inspiring and have engaging casts. Sad subjects, yet I think you’ll feel uplifted.
The Monuments Men
- Directed by George Clooney, 2014
Woman in Gold
- Directed by Simon Curtis, 2015
- Watch either or both films for up to 5 points of EC each. Up to 10 points if you do both.
- Describe the story of the film(s) that you watch. What happens? How do you feel about the events? What have you learned from these stories?
- Discuss the concept of “Erasing Culture”. Do you see it in these films? In the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan? In the United States Westward expansion? In the invasion of Ukraine today? Or Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014? Can you think of other examples?
- At the end of The Monuments Men, President Truman asks George Clooney’s character Frank Stokes about the men who died saving art. Truman asks Stokes if Donald Jeffries who died saving Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges would say it was worth it, “if he could speak.” Stokes replies, “if he could speak, I think he would.” What do you think? Is saving a single art object worth a human life? What about Hitler, Putin, or anyone else trying to erase someone’s history and culture? What would you do to save your family’s mementos? Of the bits of memories of relatives you never had the chance to meet?
- In Woman in Gold a stolen painting that has become a national treasure is finally returned to the family it was stolen from. In returning the painting to its rightful owners, it is also taken away from the 9 million residents of Austria. Who does art belong to? To individual collectors? To a nation? To the world? To posterity?
- What’s your favorite museum? How would you feel if it were taken away?
- Archaeologists in Central Mexico and the Yucatan have a tough challenge. Whenever they see a church on a small hill, there is probably a Mayan or other indigenous Pyramid buried underneath it. Would you let the pyramid remain buried to save the church? Or lose the church to uncover the pyramid. The Christian Missionaries, like so many before them, tried to erase culture they didn’t like. Why are we humans so eager to erase each other’s culture? Can you see a future where we celebrate human diversity and add to culture instead of erasing it? How do we get there?
- Name your blog post: Week 12 – EC – WWII & Art
Unlike our first meetup which was required, this one is optional and there are no points for it. If you’re buried in work or otherwise busy, no worries. But if you’d like to meet up on Zoom, I’m happy to. We can chat about Art, Life, Careers, LBSU, Life After LBSU. We can look over your projects this summer and I can offer feedback.
Pick a time slot if you’d like to. If not, thanks so much for sharing part of your summer with me, and good luck in all things going forward.
If you pick a time and then can’t make it, please be sure to LMK!
It’s been nice sharing a bit of summer with all of you. 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!