Quite possibly one of the most well known pARTicipatory projects

As we all know, art museums are a place to visit and enjoy works of art as a simple viewer. You just would not, nor are you permitted, to touch fine pieces of art. There is no need to anyway, they were not painted or created for you to come along and touch them. They are meant instead to be viewed, serving themselves for your reaction. These are still extremely self-fulfilling moments, when you look at a piece and feel a deep emotional connection.

I specifically remember visting the Indianapolis Museum of Art with my Mom as a kid. She is an art teacher and naturally, became a big influence in my life; teaching me (and my brother) about famous artists and the importance of their work. At the IMA, among the large Georgia O’ Keeffe flowers, Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture and a huge Louis Tiffany Comfort stained glass window, there is a permanent Rembrant piece. It is a small self portrait that hangs above a fire place in a dark room built to feel like a library or study. We always visit that piece; my Mom can stand and look at it for 15 minutes at a time, marveling over the intricacies and details. Completed in 1629 (1629 people-that is a LONG time ago in the art world), the piece captures the mood of that particular moment.  The lighting so very well portrayed, the expression of his face, even the smallest of brush strokes that accentuates his facial hair. He appears to be wearing a scarf or neck wrap that is highlighted magnificently in the painting. The way my Mom used to talk about this piece, and other such influential pieces shows how much art can touch the spirit. Which brings up the question, what do people think, or better – what do they feel, when they view art?

From experience, I can tell you I have felt happiness, sadness, inspiration, anger, even humiliation and embarrassment. That is one thing that makes art so special; the reaction of the audience. And one reason why some people like Van Gogh, while others really like Picasso. So back to this blog post and the theme of participatory art.

One of the most famous participatory art pieces, found several times through googling, reading articles and blogs, even having conversations with people, is Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist Is Present.” Among this artist’s 2010 MOMA exhibition, she herself sat a table, dressed in floor length robes, inviting the audience to sit in the empty chair across from her. Participants could sit, for as long as they wanted, in silence across the table from the artist’s gaze. While not one of my favorite pieces ever made, the thing that intrigues me most are people’s reaction. Some of these folks waited hours, in a long line, for the chance to become active participants. Why, I wonder?

Perhaps it was for the release. I stumbled upon a Tumblr site dedicated to the people who, when they sat at the table, cried. What were they thinking, or feeling, or seeing that compelled them to cry? Some appear as if they have reached complacency, peace, or affirmation. But what about the participants who did not cry? What was their reaction? There is even a sister Tumblr site, Marina Abramovic Hotties that is scrolling pictures of attractive people who sat at her table.

For me, the essence and importance of the project is that the participants are acting “human.” They are entitled to, and portray emotional responses prompted by the artist and the given situation. The artist never faltered or changed her emotion. She simply reacted to her participant by looking at them, while wrapped in total silence.

It is a gentle reminder of what art is meant to be. But this time, it becomes more engaging. And while you are not necessarily invited to touch the artist, you are invited to play an active role. It is played in real time and allows you to exhibit yourself through your outward expression.

I will conclude with this thought. There is no doubt that there is a rising trend in participatory art. It’s becoming popular and changing the museum experience. When I ask myself why I am drawn to participatory pieces, the answer is simple: For the human interaction. For the human experience. For the human response.

Was Marina’s intention the same? I could read her artist statement, listen to her interviews and easily find out. However, since art is tailored to the individual’s own thoughts and reactions, this post is what I felt from her performance piece. She provided the platform and her participants provided the purpose. Two strangers, both left with a new feeling and maybe even – a memory…of pure, truthful, human connection.

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pARTicipatory project – Burning Man style

Burning Man has so many interactive projects that I could easily base my entire blog off of them. There is no other place that compares to the annual week of the Burning Man event and all the crazy art that comes out to play. However, I wont be that “person that just talks about Burning Man all the time.” Ill try anyway. But I cant help myself, this project was too captivating not to share!

Peter Hudson is the man. He is well known through the Burning Man community for making large, participatory pieces. This past year at Burning Man, his “Charon” project was one of the most popular pieces on the playa. There wasnt a single night we didnt stop by, pull the ropes and get the wheel turning.

Peter is a master zoetrope designer. A zoetrope is device that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of static pictures. Peter’s are especially fantastic because they require the engagement of people to get the full artistic benefit of the project. Charon is a huge 34 foot tall kinetic sculpture consisting of 20 animated skeletons. Built from steel, aluminum, and wood, and weighing in at over 7 tons – it took close to 100 people to design and build. Each side of the wheel has 6 ropes that hang on a pulley system and require groups of three to pull back and forth with a partner on the other end. As the pulling goes harder, the wheel spins faster, until a bell rings and a strobe light goes off. When this happens, that is when the magic is revealed. The strobe light flashes on a spot of skeletons that look like they are “rowing” a boat – turning their head side to side and using their arms to row along.

A video of the project and more information on Peter can be seen here.

Its a beautiful thing to see in person. Congratulations, Peter. You completely blew me away!

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street pARTicipatory project


everyone hits bumps in the road. consider this mine, which kept me from updating my blog. I thought about quitting this project (having a blog) altogether, but as it turns out, people read this! and guess what. I have come across some very interesting projects which I am now going to share.

recently, I have really been into street art. I myself just finished painting a mural on a prominent wall in a very visible neighborhood here in san francisco. enough of a pitch about that (perhaps a post to come), I dedicate the next few (that is right, FEW, so more than one!) posts to street art. specifically with the factor of pARTicipation-the one true thing I will keep whilst perpetually being behind on updating my blog.

we have all seen clever ways to reuse existing elements transforming them into something new. I love art like this, because it cuts back on material costs. why make or create something new when there is so much existing out there? enough about that. that is not what this post is about. a common example would be reusing a bathtub as a planter for flowers. it can be beautiful (if done right and especially in the right spot) but its mighty functional. boom. done.

how about this project? take a cruddy, graffitied, tagged (often with shitty tagging), falling apart facade and do something with it. these fun pockets reuse advertising signage and turn them into small planters. what a way to really beautify the neighborhood, without new construction. in fact, the artists have even posted a template so that anyone can create their own poster pockets fulls of plants.

check out their blog here. loads of pictures. bravo sean and eric. I am very selective on what I choose to blog about, but this project is just too cool.

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pARTicipate – in NOLA

For more info on the picture and project above, click here.

I have a newly found appreciation for fellow bloggers out there.  amidst all of my work, I have been hoping for a self-discovery – particularly, a direction I should be headed in. between doing personal art projects, trying to paint a mural, submitting for grant applications, making my portfolio, learning french, and volunteering with architecture for humanity – life has been busy.

I have even thought about going back to school.  I would want to pour my focus in participatory art projects, public work, or a simliar program.  does it exist?  if I had time to research, I would know the answer to that…

in the mean time, I will put up this post.  I would LOVE to work for this company. and perhaps, when I have said website and portfolio done, I will see if we can work out an internship.  interestingly enough, Candy Chang, one of the founders of Civic Center recently won a grant through the Black Rock Arts Foundation to further develop her project Before I Die.

The focus of their organization seems to be on the people within their communities – how to engage them, interact with them (in unique ways), how to help them, what is needed.  The results?  BEAUTIFUL.  INSPIRING.  I absolutely adore it.

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the laundromat project

I am on a roll today, which is what keeping up a blog is supposed to be like!  here is another great project with another video.

The Laundromat Project is a community-based non-profit arts organization committed to the well-being of people of color living on low incomes in New York City. Understanding that creativity is a central component of healthy human beings, vibrant neighborhoods, and thriving economies, the goal of the project is to bring art programs to where neighbors already are: the local laundromat.

interestingly enough, I have learned that laundromats recently have become a hot spot for pop up art shows and music sessions. take this project for example.  a whole blog about laundromat stories.  I suppose it makes sense to think about bringing creativeness to laundromats – would have improved my experience!

cant say much else besides what a wonderful and beautiful idea!  simple, inexpensive, participatory.  one major thing I took from the video – art makes people happy; even better, it can unlock potential people didnt even know they had.

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large scale pARTicipatory project

I found this project after watching a TED talk the other night.  I had been meaning to watch this talk for awhile, (especially when I heard it was given to an artist) its the talk of the winner of the 2011 TED award.  His name is JR and he is a french muralist/artist/activist who is well known for posting giant images on buildings, trains, bridges, houses, stairs all over the world.  Daring in his concepts, flattering in his work, positive in his attitude, he is totally worthy of this years TED awesomeness.  From the favelas of Brasil to the slums of Kenya, JR’s work always concentrates on one subject: people.

watch the talk – it will inspire you!

as part of this talk, JR was asked to give one wish to change the world in the next year. his response?  “I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world…INSIDE OUT.”

he is using guerilla style graffiti that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work.  one of his projects titled “women heroes” aims to show images of the resilient women living in the different slums.  he also launched a new website – this is where the participatory part comes in.  can you picture a place in this world (in your neighborhood perhaps) that would benefit from art like this?

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pARTicipatory project to share

I have no clue how I stumbled onto this video, but I adore the concept!  The Fun Theory is a project initiated by Volkswagon – a site full of awesome participatory videos.

the theory: fun can change a person’s behavior

the prediction: everyday situations and lifestyles can be improved if they are made more fun

the experiment: all videos, different ideas – manipulating a particular environment in a seemingly positive (and fun), mostly interactive and participatory way

the observation: watch people’s reactions and draw your own conclusions 🙂

as many projects as I have on my plate right now, this one would be super fun.  hmm…Ill add this to my list anyway.

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