Wednesday, September 28, 2011 5:16 PM
In the Western world, calligraphy—and handwriting in general—is nearly as dead as the paper it’s written on. But for scribers of many Asian languages, calligraphy is not only a part of everyday communication, it’s considered a pleasurable hobby. In Chinese public parks, for example, many people have taken to brushing beautiful characters onto sidewalks with water instead of ink—creating ephemeral splashes of public art that disappear within minutes.
Beijing-based artist Nicholas Hanna has taken the art of temporary calligraphy to a whole new, digitized level. Hanna strapped big water jugs to the back of a sān lún chē, or tricycle rickshaw, and connected them to about 15 computer-controlled nozzles that are affixed to the back of the vehicle. As he pedals down the street, the contraption dribbles water, leaving temporary characters that look like a hybrid of hanzi and the classic video game Space Invaders.
“It doesn’t have the same kind of grace and beauty, because it’s mechanized and it’s automated,” Hanna concedes in the Danwei-produced video below. “I view it as a sort of Western approach to things, but it a way for me to do it, too. To be in China and to play with them also.”
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 4:10 PM
The typical U.S. historical marker, cast iron with raised lettering, usually raises more questions than it answers, and many of these signs are rife with errors and bias. Artist Norm Magnusson’s I-75 Project uses the form for a different sort of provocation.
Magnusson hopes to install these signs at rest stops along the 1,775-mile Insterstate 75, which stretches from Michigan to Florida. He has already shown them in several states and is seeking funding for the proposed installation. Thick Culture quotes him on their sly, Zinn-meets-Banksy appeal:
“ ‘Are they real?’ is a question viewers frequently ask, meaning ‘are they state-sponsored?’ I love this confusion and hope to slip a message in while people are mulling it over. These markers are just the kind of public art I really enjoy: gently assertive and non-confrontational, firmly thought-provoking and pretty to look at and just a little bit subversive.”
Source: Thick Culture
Images courtesy of
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 3:36 PM
Public art is one of those tricky things: I tend to still appreciate it, even when it doesn’t hit my aesthetic sweet spot—but I also understand why it’s often contentious. When it comes to art, not everyone can agree on everything, right?
Maybe that’s the wrong attitude: Jon Pounds, executive director of the Chicago Public Art Group, has a nice short soapbox piece in Public Art Review focused on increasing community participation—and even seeking consensus—in public art projects. He argues that “the public art industry” is too much like science: something we all study and engage with as youngsters, but then grow up and largely leave to professionals, with their special lexicons, high-tech equipment, and formal procedures.
What public art should be more like is cooking, Pounds writes: Something “we seldom study . . . as part of early education, but [that] we all appreciate [as] something we need every day, that we enjoy for its sensuality and meaning, that is richly varied in its forms, and that allows nearly everyone to feel the pride of accomplishment in one’s ‘work.’ ”
Here’s how he’d accomplish that ethos with respect to public art:
I believe that each of us—that is, every human being—is more creative than we are typically asked to be in the course of our lives. Ordinary people have skills, capacities, knowledge, and wisdom that they are not asked to bring forward. Just as eating tasty food encourages us to cook, public art should encourage all of us to cook, public art should encourage all of us to be participants in planning and creating public spaces, expressing collective values, and playing with the unknown.
I believe public artists and public art administrators should seek much more public engagement through their shared creative processes. A messy, occasionally discordant process can also result in an extraordinary aesthetic solution. Those solutions arise because ordinary people can know aspects of a place better than anyone else. An inclusive democratic process based on consensus (rather than simply voting) is ultimately good for us all when ordinary people are asked to example social and philosophical contradictions and to visualize aesthetic interruptions of public space.
Source: Public Art Review (article not available online)
Thursday, February 04, 2010 5:32 PM
This past September, the United Church of Canada (UCC) commissioned four established aerosol artists to paint their interpretations of faith on a wall donated by a Toronto church, reports Sojourners. The vivid mural looks to be the first of many: The UCC has already scheduled a second “Paint Your Faith” event in Vancouver during April.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 5:22 PM
The pedestrian reclamation of Times Square in New York City is a good start for the sake of public art, according to Benjamin R. Barber in the Nation. But it’s not enough. To transform the once traffic clogged area into something that can truly be considered “public,” the city must enlist artists, and secure adequate funding. He writes:
Public space is not merely the passive residue of a decision to ban cars or a tacit invitation to the public to step into the street. It must be actively created and self-consciously sustained against the grain of an architecture built as much for machines as people, more for commercial than common use.
Barber points to Chicago’s Millennium Park and Barcelona’s Las Ramblas (with all of its grit) as places that got public art right. New York has the same potential with Times Square, but it’s not there yet.
, licensed under
Monday, August 03, 2009 12:50 PM
Frustrated that her neighborhood seemed to function as little more than a “giant hotel of passing strangers,” artist Candy Chang created a public installation meant to get residents talking. Her goal was simple: use public space effectively and engage residents.
Chang’s New York City installation featured post-its that asked for basic information about residents’ living situations. Passersby were quick to participate, sharing the kind of information we often keep to ourselves. One 43-year resident of a Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn studio boasted of paying just $146 a month in rent. A resident of Brooklyn's Cobble Hill neighborhood reported paying $3,720 for a four-bedroom apartment. For more results, check out Chang’s website.
(Thanks, Visual Culture.)
Image courtesy of Candy Chang.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 10:27 AM
The public art project TRASH: anycoloryoulike, launched this summer by the artist Adrian Kondratowicz, replaces traditional black trash bags with bright, colorful, biodegradable bags. Kondratowicz hopes that, in addition to making city streets look a little better, piles of flashy pink and white polka-dot garbage bags will get people thinking about how much they throw away.
“People are sensitized to seeing mounds of black trash bags lining sidewalks,” writes Kathryn Kondracki at the Next American City blog, “but the use of multi-colored bags will hopefully make by-standers stop and think about the impact.”
Individuals and businesses can sponsor city blocks or schools for one or more trash-collection days, and Kondratowicz can produce bags in just about any color.
If you want to see the pink polka dots in action, head to Brooklyn on August 21—the bags will be out on Broadway between Marcy Avenue and Hewes Street.
Images by Gina Marie, courtesy of anycoloryoulike.biz.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008 5:07 PM
Since the advent of cell phones, phone booths have lost much of their usefulness. So what if you want to contact the divine? Better find a prayer booth like the one featured in the Baltimore Sun. The booth—complete with a kneeler and directions for proper hand positioning—was conceived as a public space for the typically private activity of prayer, but passers-by seem more bemused than spiritually buoyed by its presence.
Image by Mrs. W., licensed under Creative Commons.
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