Paint Schoodic

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Is anyone out there?

A constantly-changing installation on my morning route. I'm sure many people just run right through it, judging by how frequently it's been kicked around when I get there.

Sometimes I produce artwork that goes into galleries, where people come to say nice things about it (and occasionally even buy some). Other times, I produce work for which I can’t gauge the audience’s response, such as this Facebook album documenting the destruction and construction of a new grocery store in my neighborhood.

Much modern art is now open-source, which curtails any in-depth communication between the creator and his audience. YouTube, your blog, and your website will count your visitors, but that’s a pretty one-dimensional view of your audience. Pinterest and Facebook don’t even give you that. Either you’re the meme-of-the-week or you feel like you’re laboring inside a dark box, totally cut off from the world.

The original art at this site was this wire flower, which bloomed in mid-March.
I pass by a little arrangement of rocks, twigs and pine cones every day on a pedestrian bridge over an expressway.  It changes every day, and it always brings a smile to my face. It started with a wire flower, which then sagged into a drooping bloom during Holy Week, and was then replaced by the current collection.

Unless this artist is hiding in the shrubbery watching, he or she has no idea that I’m a fan. I see it as a sort of special greeting directed specifically to me. But how can the artist possibly realize that? In fact, I frequently see the arrangement kicked out of place by unmindful pedestrians.
By accident or design, the flower drooped during Holy Week, matching perfectly the pensive mood of that season.
 Ray Davies of the Kinks once sang

“Are you listening?
Are you listening to me?
Can you hear me?
Can you hear me clearly?
Around the dial…”

I hope that unknown artist on the pedestrian bridge doesn’t give up on me. I’m listening.

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SqUaNg said...

The art historical world is in many ways a diverse one, yet it could be pretty one dimensional when it comes to specialty writing. That's because the art historian, (at least those who were trained in the traditional sense, and subscribed to the traditional ideology) aim to produce meaning for the audience rather than allowing the audience to find meaning on their own terms. For us, our best friends are the ones who don't know anything about art so that we could direct them through a planned route. This is very much what many artists has qualms about. In many ways academic writing about art takes away the freedom to find meaning in things. This is especially true if you read it in a formulaic format in academic writing. For the academic, it's an achievement to follow such a rigid structure. That's not strictly true because there are very good writers out there who write about art, but those who are able to write about art with passion are rare because it's not a good means to survive so it gets abandoned by the art historian. We drop like flies.

Your post made me think of Alfred Gell, a reknown anthropologist who considers art a social medium- in which he talks about the agency of art. I read his really dense book, which took forever- and it made art a lot easier to understand, but only through a linear lens, where the artist must make art for the audience with an agenda- where the aim to create meaning is an agenda.

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