Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Apples and ....

Art making is very much about ideas that aren't or can't be realised.

This can be apathy on behalf of the artists but can also be more logistical or simply a lack of opportunity/platform. Over the years I have had many ideas that are simply set aside in sketch books as improbable due to a variety of reasons.

Some are discounted as I realise they are motivated by the wrong reasons. It's difficult to highlight faults in public art and the associated industry by actually making public art … it almost feels hypocritical.

When the St George's Cathedral Public Art call was put out a few years ago, we were going to present an idea where the forecourt was planted with a dense orange grove which would be shelter, food and shade for the city's homeless.

As the grove almost certainly wouldn't have cost the allocated $500,000, the balance would be donated to homeless charities … including the full artist fee.

The homeless often congregate around the church so the idea was to create an environment that both highlighted homelessness but also the positive role the church plays in this critical issue.

That said, the donation would equally highlight the debauchery of the scale of the particular commission and public art in general.

Whilst the idea was easily justified within the St George narrative, it wasn't presented in the end because it felt like it was a hopeless, negatively-driven idea and - importantly - as an atheist it felt 'wrong' to participate.

This post is prompted by another idea I had this morning after reading an afterword in Cory Doctorow's 'Little Brother'. An artwork was placed by some artists in a public space with flashing LED lights to promote a television programme. This caused an armed response - as flashing lights equals BOMB in many people's minds - and the artists were criminally prosecuted.

The idea I had this morning was to make little, cheap self-contained red LED lights with simple solar panels (from calculators?) that can be installed in clusters high in alleyways and on the side of buildings. These would come on for 10 seconds at a time then rest for 20 seconds during the night with the intervals of the various lights being staggered.

They would highlight surveillance and security in the simple language of red equals record but be playful in that people would dwell where they shouldn't watching the lights.

If you installed the cluster near actual cameras then the viewer is being actively observed and is actively observing. It is also public art without a formal mandate… simply art that is public. No photo opportunity for a local council or property developer.

Again…. logistically dangerous but also financially prohibitive.

In the sketchbook and - eventually - down the back of a cupboard with the rest of them!

Image: Cecilia Aros/Flickr Creative Commons

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