Thursday, June 7, 2007

Public Art Conference in Las Vegas - Part 2

Unfixed: Exploring Temporary Public Projects

Presenters: Marina Zurkow, Artist; Katie Salen, Artist; Carole Stakenas, Curator and Director, LACE; Kendal Henry, Public Art Consultant, Director of Culture and Economic Development, Newburgh, NY

Marina Zurkow and Katie Salen began by discussing their collaborations on temporary public art projects, most notably Karaoke Ice. This project, which was originally commissioned for ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge, is described on the Karaoke Ice web site as follows:
Imagine an ice cream truck transformed into a mobile karaoke unit, driven by a squirrel cub with a penchant for cheap magic, deployed to spark spontaneous interaction between passersby.
This project brings different aspects of popular culture into play in one mobile unit. Please visit the web site, Karaoke Ice, as my descriptions here cannot do this project justice.

Another interesting presentation was by Kendal Henry about his work with CEC ArtsLink, an international arts organization that supports exchange of artists and cultural managers between the US and Europe, Russia and Eurasia.

Kendal spoke about two of his experiences working in Russia with American and Russian artists and community members. For one project, all of the information he and artist Sheila Levrant de Bretteville had before they arrived was that they would be working with a concrete company. The location for the project was an old water tower in the center of the city. Working with community members, they created abstract imagery together with Russian letters - the letters were the first letter in each word of a poem that had been written for the project, and they were engraved into concrete that replaced the crumbling step at the entrance. For the opening, the poem was filled in with chalk. After the initial temporary project was over, the concrete slab engraved with letters remained, and the history museum created a program for poets to create new poems and fill the letters in on an ongoing, temporary basis.

The artists and cultural managers involved in these projects were all working long-distance and stated how important it is to make local connections. Marina Zurkow and Katie Salen created a temporary project at Fremont Street for the conference, and worked with Russian ice sculptor/artist Anfim Khanikov, obliging them to make connections with other ice sculptors in the area, as well as a nearby hotel with a walk-in freezer.

Both of these projects capture an aspect of what is important in temporary art - reaching out to the community in some way, especially through an element of fun. They stressed that the public at large will be more interested if temporary art is not framed as "capital A art."

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