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Response to Public Art, Private Viewing

October 30, 2009


I just finished reading this really interesting blog entry from the Art21 Blog regarding public video installation in LA.  The last paragraph really intrigued me:

Now that video art and digital projectors are no longer novelties, it’s time for more artists to take a strategic approach to public installations, finding locations that actually compel passers-by to watch or making videos that, like ads, can be digested in an instant. Then maybe I’ll find myself viewing public art in private less and less often.

I can’t help but wonder how much artists (any artists really, not jut public artists) are being asked to compete with commercial media.  It’s no bold observation to say that artists making work today are making work for an audience of people more inundated with imagery and gratified inquiry than ever before.  I think it’s really interesting to consider just how an artist might have to work to speak to that audience in a familiar and effective way while not making work that is ultimately as flat as an ad in a magazine.  If these public artists must make work that communicates more like the ads it is appearing near, how will we know when we’re looking at art and when we’re looking at advertisement (and how are those experiences different)?

It is this line between art and other (performer and viewer, spectacle and observer) that I am most intrigued by right now.  Where exactly does that invisible line fall and how does knowing where it falls affect the rules around each experience.  More importantly, why do we need to know so badly?

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