Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Art, Democracy and Public Space

"Artists are in a special position to contribute to this exploration of new forms of democracy, by creating work that is challenging and disrupting. Artists have the opportunity to continue the avant-garde tradition, which has always engaged public issues. They should try to make sense of this tradition without being imprisoned by it."  -Krzysztof Wodiczko

In his discussion of democracy, Wodiczko talks about the relationship between public space and democracy and then how that public space is used and transformed by artists.  Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens are equal and participate freely. A public space belongs to the people, not a particular entity.  Many problems arise when activating public space so that the people will use it as a place for democracy, or freedom.  This is the job of the artist.  Artists are able to look at a public space and turn it into something beautiful or avant-garde.  They have the opportunity to make a statement about democracy in their activation of public space.

When thinking of this concept, I am reminded of the public sculpture "Tilted Arc." (pictured above)  This piece was a site-specific sculpture by Richard Serra in 1981.  The sculpture was essentially a giant black curved wall that cut across a city block.  To Serra, it was a beautiful display of the human experience because it forced you to interact with the open block differently and see the space in a new way.  Unfortunately, the sculpture was just in the way to most people.  It was large, cut all views of the landscape and really hindered the way people used the public space.  It was removed quickly after being placed and started an interesting conversation in art.  Would that piece continue to be art even after its removal?  Serra argued that in order for it to be art it had to exist in that exact location.

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