This project will be carried out in Philadelphia. My goal is to create a piece of public art that encourages public interaction. I let a few people in the art scene here know that I’m looking for walls or spaces for intervention. While I wait for possible leads, I’ve started the brainstorm process for projects which would not require an approval process. This way, if I’m not able to coordinate a space in the short time allotted for this project, I am able to carry on with other ideas.
The majority of these ideas are short-term interventions, and include adding a suggestion box to a public space (such as an unmaintained bus stop). Responses could be reviewed and sent to a community council member. Another idea would be replacing advertisements on the public transportation system (Septa) with art, quotes, history lessons; content that is based on improving the visual environment and passenger’s experience, and does not ask its audience for money as advertisements do. Potential ad takeovers could include short lessons such as game theory, why/how to encrypt data, or perhaps even riddles, brain teasers or philosophical questions. The goal would be to show that one’s time on the train doesn’t have to feel like time wasted, rather, it could be a space for contemplation.
Another idea for a temporary ad replacement would be a list of compliments that are not about one’s looks. Multiple artists over the last few years have done a fantastic job of drawing attention to the issue of catcalling women, such as Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” street campaign, Hannah Price’s portraits of catcallers, or Rob Bliss’ video “10 Hours of Walking Around NYC as a Woman”. These projects are all highly effective in highlighting how these supposed compliments are a degrading action that make women feel vulnerable and reduce people to objects of physical desire on the street. If the counter argument (as flawed as it is) is that there is there is positive intention in paying someone a compliment, I thought a positive extension of this existing work would be to provide a list entitled “Compliments That Aren’t About Looks”. The list would include quotes like “You have a beautiful perspective on the world/humanity/etc”, “You have an incredible sense of humor,” “I wish more people thought the way you did about ____”, and so on. The purpose of placing this within the context of an advertisement space on public transportation is because a lot of these types of catcalling issues occur in these small-quartered, public spaces. Thus, this placement would connect with one facet of the target-audience who should think twice before they address a stranger about their looks.
All of these ideas are attempts to reimagine existing public space as a place for audience engagement. Candy Chang, an artist, designer and urban planner, is an inspiration for this project as she uses her art to achieve this type of public engagement in a very direct way. A few of her more notable projects include painting an outdoor wall with the words “Before I Die….” then leaving a number of spaces for pedestrians to fill in the blank. Her indoor work has included projects such as confession booths, where audience members are able to anonymously write a confession on a provided card, which is then hung on a wall with other confessions as an exhibit. What I like about Candy’s projects is that they involve direct interaction between the audience and the art, and this allows the audience to take away a sense of self-importance from the work. One of my favorite projects that I completed last semester (Fall 2014) for Angela’s Remix the City course involved this same sort of direct connection with the work: I replaced an advertisement on the Metro-North train with an email address in order to provide people with a space to be heard. I was both surprised by the amount of positive feedback the sign received, and was encouraged to do more projects which gave people a space to feel heard.
That’s where I am in the brainstorm process, more posts to come!