Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Szpilman Award: carpe diem, one ephemeral step at a time

An absolutely delightful organization called the Szpilman Foundation (whose motto is "Organizing Moments for People") (and who unfortunately has a lot of their site in German) is for the 5th time organizing an absolutely delightful event:

The SZPILMAN AWARD is awarded to works
that exist only for a moment or a short period of time.

The purpose of the award is to promote such works whose

forms consist of ephemeral situations.
The project is brilliant. I still haven't been able to figure out why one of the elements of the prize (besides a 'dynamic amount of money') is a residency in the Polish village of Cimochowizna. But hey, they pay for transport and all!
As for the winners. Well, so far I am not convinced... Which might mean there is room for one of us! The projects I seem to like the most are the ones made by the very people from the Szpilman Foundation (outside of the contest context), such as creating a performance with a lot of strangers and extremely little time.

Of all the finalists and winners of the Szpilman Award from previous years, my favorite one, I think, is this one:

Shannon Bool, Partially Renovated Floor

Shannon Bool purges the floor in her studio at the academy of arts
of the paints and muck of the last 15 years in order to bring back the
original oak parquet.

I am ready to admit that it's very simple, and that similar works have been around for a couple of years. And I like it.
What I like about Bool's work is the sense of transparency. In her later works she insists even more on the relation between what is found (and so, present, previous, old) and what is introduced (see her portfolio on the link on this page). There is an element of vandalism that is always intriguing. Still, I find that this earlier work is so special precisely because it plays the vandalism card like a double-edged sword. For once, we can say that the original, wooden floor is the vandal! This is something to think about, in many contexts. Art history, architecture, urbanism, but also more general: the offense of going back.

Another question is if this should qualify for the Szpilman Award. Generally speaking, many of the selected works do not seem to be as ephemeral as one might want them to be. They are too well documented, too gallery-conscious, too stable, and that, to me, makes them problematic. Not that I insist on total formal rigor, only the time factor seems to me like the very essence of the Award. Beyond the fact that it makes the works often difficult to "sell", or at least to consider on par with other types of art, it simply is about something slightly different. Lighter, maybe.

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