Friday, June 10, 2005

Innovative Public Art

The strange thing about public art is that very often it is the for of art the public cares the least about. It is distant, cold, uninviting and very elitist. The huge abstract sculptures and installations, the massive gates to nowhere, the blocks of cement or marble, the uncomfortable spaces with stairs impossible to climb or benches unbearably hard, rigid, "slick" - all this scares the public away from anything that combines art and public space.
Fortunately, a wind of change seems to be rising. One signal is the art of Greyworld, a group of four designers (artists? publicists?) who decided to declare war and make art that's close to people, interesting, enchanting, and thus - public, in the proper meaning of the word, that is, accessible to a (general) public. Their most recent work is called Bins and Benches, and
is a collection of intelligent street furniture which will move independently within the extensive public piazza in front of The Junction [Cambridge, UK]. In-built technology will allow these unique items to respond to the needs of the humans that share their habitat. This will include sympathetic responses to weather conditions.
The benches will flock together at certain times of day, hide in shadow when the sun is burning, or under protection when it's raining. They to have people sit down on them, and so will try to attract the people e.g. at night gathering closer to the club zone, or forming geometric shapes to attract attention. The trash bins are more shy and solitary, they usually wander alone, though they like the benches and sometimes stick around them. (an extended description is here).
That's how it looks in written form. I am anxious to read a review.
Greyworld have several other very pretty public projects. You can find them on their site. It's also worth checking out the diversity of the projects proposed to the Junction's invitiation-only contest. I must say, though, that the Bins and Benches seem to have deserved the victory.



angela said...

I'm a friend of John, the blogger who writes the "Mixed Nuts" blog page; Anyhow-- firstly, your site is great.
Secondly, this article on public art got me to thinking about one of the worst pieces of public art in my ol' hometown.
We have, in Richmond, VA, a scary-looking and very Orwellian sculpture on the side of a building. The post-modern metal sculpture is supposed to be the colossal (albeit generic) head of a policeman. It's eerily reminiscent of old Soviet-Realism.
This is where "public art" fails on a massive scale; It really does scare the bejeebies out of people!

vvoi said...

Welcome Angela!
There are two examples of high-quality "ugly public art subversion" that come to mind: the first one is some of the work of British artist Banksy, and the second, the strange and wonderful creations of Hundertwasser. Both are worth checking out, though are in quite different leagues, in my opinion. The funny thing is, Banksy was in the news, so he appeared on this blog, while Hundertwasser has died a while ago, and I have nothing about him. Goes to show how prejudiced and treacherous the "new art" thing can be.
I wish I came up with something nice to give all the soc-realist statues that remain both in Portugal and in Poland a new life. Imagine, say, dozens of transparent tunnels going through the Richmond Orwellian head with little live animals living a life of their own... Of course, that's a lack of respect for artists of the past, but why should public art survive any easier than "private" art? Then again, some politicians really like to replace the statues their rivals raised. And that's scary, too.

Hungry Hyaena said...

The bins/benches project sounds curious. I look forward to learning more about it.


Related Posts with Thumbnails