T h e I nt e r nat i o nal Awar d f o r P ub li c A r t : M e e t t h e F inali s t s issue 47 • fall/winter 2012 • publicartreview.orgIssue 47 • About Place ABOUT PLACE Putting art at the heart of placemaking Cambodia’s vibrant public art scene Washington D.C.’s new 5x5 festival Mixing past and present at the Golden Gate Charles Landry on city making $16.00 USD
PL ACE O’MAHONY DE I R DR E CHANG C A N DYPUBLIC ART REVIEW | VOL. 24 NO. 1 • ISSUE 47 | PUBLICARTREVIEW.ORG Conversations with five artists who think deeply about how public art26 can shape our experience of place C A N DY C H A N G : Public Art Review: What’s your working definition of placemaking? Making Cities Comfortable Candy Chang: I think it’s a fancy word for a place that is cared for and is caring. New Orleans–based Candy Chang creates simple, analog messaging systems that allow strangers to share— How do you personally go about the process of placemaking? anonymously and in public—their thoughts, memories, and What tools and techniques do you use? dreams. Before I Die featured a fill-in-the-blank chalkboard There are a lot of ways the people around us can help improve affixed to an abandoned house—an invitation to passers-by our lives. We don’t bump into every neighbor, so a lot of wis- to chalk in their bucket list; I Wish This Was used removable dom never gets passed on, but we do share the same public vinyl stickers to collect suggested uses for abandoned spaces. So over the past few years I’ve tried out ways to share storefronts in New Orleans. The spirit of these anonymous more with the people around me in public space, using simple commentaries may mirror the loose anonymity of Web-based tools like stickers, stencils, and chalk. They’re accessible to communities, but the similarity stops there. Their physicality anyone walking by and they’re not very expensive, which puts makes them a site-specific, collaborative intervention. you in an open-minded mood to keep learning, questioning, and experimenting, with low pressure. Some of my small interventions have led to better- informed big ones. I Wish This Was became a prototype for Neighborland, a hybrid online/offline tool to help people join forces, build on ideas, and improve their communities together. Photos by Civic Center. OPPOSITE PAGE: Photo by Shake Shack.
MAKERS Interviews by Joseph Hart DR E I S E ITL DALE I DE N H E R B E RT MAN U E L JEFRE SARA PUBLIC ART REVIEW | FALL / WINTER 2012 | PUBLICARTREVIEW.ORG 27ARTISTS’ PHOTOS (from left to right): Photo by Randal Ford for Fast Company; photo courtesy the artist; photo courtesy Studio JEFRË; photo by Mark Escribano; photo by Nicolai Rismann. ABOVE: Chang’s Before I Die walls have been made in countries around the world, including Kazakhstan, South Africa, and Argentina. Each wall reflects what’s important to people in that place. OPPOSITE PAGE: Neighborhood residents used the removable vinyl stickers of Candy Chang’s I Wish This Was project to suggest uses for abandoned storefronts in New Orleans. What are some of the challenges of orchestrating these The processes to improve things in public space are often public exchanges? not very clear. If they were easier, it would enable more people Public spaces are for everyone, and it’s important to try and to try things out in creative and productive ways. It’s good to respect all the other people who care for them, too. Depending start with who you think would care and to see if they think on the project, I either partner with local organizations or I’ve anyone else would care. asked for permission from the people who I think would care. For the Before I Die project, I wanted to make it on an Has your thinking about place changed over the years? abandoned house in my neighborhood. I talked about it with I used to think of sharing with my neighbors for very practical my neighborhood association’s blight committee, who were reasons, but it’s changed into something much more personal. supportive and put me in contact with the property owner. I The projects I make come from questions I have. They started talked about it with the property owner and the residents on out quite practical: How much are my neighbors paying for the block, who were supportive, too. When I found out I had to their apartments? How can we lend and borrow more things get a permit, I went and got a permit from the city government. without knocking on each other’s doors at a bad time? How can
PUBLIC ART REVIEW |PUBLIC ART1REVIEW47| |VOL. 24 NO. 1 • ISSUE 47 VOL. 24 NO. • ISSUE PUBLICARTREVIEW.ORG DE I R DR E O’MAHONY: Acknowledging Rural Complexity28 Artist Deirdre O’Mahony explores the complicated intersec- tion of public space, civic life, history, and art. In one piece, for example, she reopened an abandoned rural post office as X-PO, a public meeting place that hosted events, installations, lectures, and art exhibits. A key to X-PO—and to O’Mahony’s concept of placemaking—is providing a platform for sponta- neous collaboration. “I really wanted to allow space where people could share different kinds of knowledge, because it has always been my experience that where different forms of knowledge come together, interesting things happen.” Public Art Review: Do you have a working definition of placemaking as you approach your work? Deirdre O’Mahony: For me, placemaking is about actively engaging with the matrix of human, natural histories and prac- tices that shape a place and its context. Placemaking makes these connections visible; it acknowledges the complexity of the social, environmental, cultural, and economic dimensions that affect place. ABOVE: Chang’s Looking for Love Again was commissioned by the Alaska Design Forum. How does that manifest in the places you’ve worked? TOP: People writing their memories of and hopes for Fairbanks’ vacant Polaris Building. Well, you must understand that in Ireland we have a compli- cated relationship with the land that plays out in recurring con- we share more of our ideas for our vacant storefronts? flicts around landscape and land use. These conflicts engender They’ve become more emotional as I’ve become consumed compulsive and passionate responses to particular—and not with personal well-being and what it means to lead a fulfilling necessarily picturesque—places: fields, bogs, and so on. These life. And this has made me look at my neighbors differently. irrational passions are so deeply felt that the Irish playwright We’re not just neighbors in a place, but we’re also neighbors John B. Keane wrote a powerful play about them called The in making sense of our lives. How can we share more of our Field, and the term “Field Syndrome” is sometimes used to hopes, fears, and stories? We struggle with a lot of the same describe them. issues. How can we help each other see we are not alone? I live in a very beautiful region called the Burren, in the In an environment where taping a flyer to a lamppost west of Ireland. When I came here in 1991, I was shocked by an is illegal while businesses can shout about products on an environmental conflict about the construction of an interpreta- increasing number of surfaces, we need to consider how our tive center. The plan, and the controversy surrounding it, had a Photos by Civic Center. public spaces can be better designed so they’re not just reserved profound effect on local relations and raised all sorts of issues. for the highest bidder. With more ways for residents to share The central question concerned the power relations that gov- with one another, the people around us can not only help us erned who drove the representations, cultivation, preservation, make better places, they can help us lead better lives. and interpretation of place.
Observing this controversy forced me to try to identify a cess of collective reflection on a sustainable future. contemporary place-based practice that could begin to address As a public art project, it created a space for the many dif- the fragmented and fluid nature of rural society today. Since ferent “publics” in the locality to meet—much as the old post then, my version of placemaking has tried to complicate per- office had done until it shut in 2002. I really wanted to allow ceptions of rural life. I want to make visible some of the more space where people could share different kinds of knowledge, complicated reasons behind recurring conflicts about environ- because it has always been my experience that where different mental regulation, changes in land use, and the effect of these forms of knowledge come together, interesting things happen. changes on individual and collective subjectivities. I used a mix of processes from installations, talks, curated exhibitions, and events, in order to animate a conversation So does your work specifically attempt to challenge these on what people felt was important in their place. Various perceptions? If so, how? groups started to meet regularly. Understandings—of each I’m interested in how this mix of expectations plays out in other and our various skills and practices—developed. the social unconscious in rural areas. As a result, my projects Opinions and ideas on the future for the place differed explore an expanded idea of the relationship between arts widely. Some participants had a deep knowledge going practice and cultural activism. X-PO is a good example of this. back centuries; others had limited knowledge but a lot of PUBLIC ART REVIEW | FALL / WINTER 2012 | PUBLICARTREVIEW.ORG enthusiasm. Connections were made, friendships were made, This was the abandoned rural post office that you turned into and discoveries were made. a meeting place. That’s right. In Kilnaboy, in North Clare, I had finished a tem- So you kind of turned the space over to these folks, right? porary public art project called Cross Land in 2007, and it left What were some of the projects that emerged? me with a lot of unanswered questions about the sustainability I curated the space for just eight months, and since then, local of a very beautiful landscape—and one that has been shaped by users of the space have taken over managing and funding it. more than 5,000 years of farming. The question for me became Among the events was an exhibit of archival photographs of how best to engage different stakeholders in an extended pro- the parish, which graphically demonstrated the rapidity of BELOW: Deirdre O’Mahony’s X-PO is housed in a former post office. BOTTOM LEFT: X-PO hosts community events and art exhibits. BOTTOM RIGHT: A portrait of a postman who lived in the building. 29TOP: Photo by Peter Rees. BOTTOM LEFT and RIGHT: Photos by Ben Geoghegan.
change in the landscape. One group used the space to present J E FRË: their version of the story of their family and community who Creating Places, Not Objects had been the subject of the Harvard Irish Survey in the 1930s. A mapping group spent five years charting every house, new Artist Jefre Manuel, who works under the name JEFRË, is a and old, going back to the earliest parish records of 1847. relative newcomer to public art. Three years ago, at the age of 35, the practicing designer had a heart attack and triple Is there a common thread among these projects? bypass. The experience convinced him to retire from architec- X-PO lays no claim to be representative. It is, rather, the act of ture/landscape architecture and return to his artistic practice participation that is at the core of the project. This, for me is (among other places, he studied at the School of the Art Insti- the essence of placemaking—an ontology of place experienced tute of Chicago). Today, he’s won a number of large compe- in a moment of “being-with,” as Jean-Luc Nancy proposes. titions, thanks in large part to his approach to placemaking. “Because of my background in public space and architecture, So would you say it’s “neutral” ground? I’ve never been interested in creating objects; I create places,”PUBLIC ART REVIEW | VOL. 24 NO. 1 • ISSUE 47 | PUBLICARTREVIEW.ORG That’s not quite right. X-PO means accepting difference and he says. “It’s not about a single element, it’s about a collection disagreement. By its very existence, X-PO has challenged some of elements that make a place.” local organizations and provoked opposition. It is very pub- lic—it performs a kind of coming together that is based on the Public Art Review: Can you describe your approach here and now, not on a priori relations or inherited standing in to placemaking? the community. Interestingly, for the purposes of public artists, JEFRË: For me, it’s the literal definition of the word place. Mil- while X-PO was run under the banner of “art” it was largely lennium Park is a place not only because it has iconic sculp- unquestioned, even as it questioned some of the fundamen- tures. It also has great civic parks, architecture, and restau- tal power relationships and assumptions of its rural location. rants. And people. Only after it was taken over by the regular users of the space If you think about great cities, when I ask you, “What is did it become contested. Still, it survives well and continues your favorite place and why?” you’re not going to say the Sears to function despite, or possibly because, it is “in dissent” with Tower or the Empire State Building. You’re going to say Cen- some local hierarchies. tral Park or Millennium Park. Those are places. No one single30 Construction on JEFRË’s planned cube for Kissimmee, Florida’s new Lakefront Park, rendered here, begins in January 2013. In addition to being a sculpture, it will serve as a performance and civic space.
sculpture or building or landscape will make a place. It’s all those elements combined—plus the people who use it. So how does this approach translate into your practice? Because of my background, I don’t really have a certain medium or style. I give you one specific thing related to con- text and history and I don’t repeat it again. As a result, my work is very site specific. I’m not someone who has to find a place to plop a piece. I’m also very careful to be sure that 80 percent of my materials and work is all done with local folks, so the tax money is going back into the community. Program- ming is also very important—the idea that you’re not creating things that are static. The most successful public art pieces are interactive. PUBLIC ART REVIEW | FALL / WINTER 2012 | PUBLICARTREVIEW.ORG How do you achieve that with a single sculpture as opposed to, for example, Central Park? You create an opportunity to be inside it or walk through it, like the Eiffel Tower. For example, I recently won the competi- tion for a sculpture in Kissimmee’s new Lakefront Park. Their waterfront is located near Disney, which is their competition. And they understood that they have an opportunity to create an icon for the city—something that would identify the water- front not only as a destination, but as an icon that could com- pete on a national scale. The sculpture is a cube of water that represents a common form seen in the local Indian tribe. By day it acts as a civic 31 fountain, by night it transforms itself into a cultural perfor- mance space, and on the weekends it becomes a civic venue for celebrations like weddings. It’s more than a sculpture; it’s a blank space and people make it art. Sara Daleiden’s projects encourage exploration: Being Pedestrian (above) involves walking training exercises and The Los Angeles Urban Rangers (below) serve as city guides. SARA DALE I DE N: Encouraging Public Intimacy Raised in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Sara Daleiden now lives in Los Angeles, where she takes an interventionist and activist approach to redefining the public spaces of her adopted city. Much of her work is rooted in the tradition of the flâneur, who experiences urban space through directionless walking. Trans- plant this concept to car-crazy L.A., and the badge of pedestri-ABOVE: Photo by Nate Page. BELOW: Photo by Christina Edwards. OPPOSITE PAGE: Rendering courtesy Studio JEFRË. anism takes on a radical hue. Public Art Review: How would you define placemaking? Sara Daleiden: I think of it in terms of how we use public space. It all boils down to how we socialize and how we function in a location. Everything comes down to power dynamics and how we interact socially. By looking at public spaces and how we inhabit them, we can begin to understand those power dynamics. I’m inspired by the work of William Whyte and The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. It raises interesting questions about public space. Where do people want to go? What are their behav- iors when they get there? What do they need? What’s the human behavior? What’s the stereotype of how you think people will act? What do their bodies physically need in public spaces? How do these questions inform your practice? One of my projects is the Los Angeles Urban Rangers. The idea behind it is to use the National Park Ranger system to guide people through the urban landscapes of Los Angeles. It’s a huge megalopolis, right? We treat it like a national park with hikes, maps, guides, and field kits, and we’re a friendly guide,
like a park ranger. Our goal is to empower people to get out many surveillance cameras can they count? What makes them into the landscape and experience it in interesting ways. feel they can sit here and why? The Rangers is a multidisciplinary group. My background On another project, Being Pedestrian, I collaborate with a is as a visual artist, and we also have historians, geographers, dancer and we do walking training exercises, because nobody architects, and other disciplines. walks in LA. For example, we’ll ask people to link arms and walk in pairs, with one person walking backward. It’s a sensi- Why do you take the multidisciplinary approach? tizing gesture. We think of the project as training in wandering, In general my work is less discipline-specific. If the question teaching people to slow down and be curious. It’s encouraging is “How do we make L.A. a better place to live,” the answer an environmental experience. can come from planners, artists, architects, geographers. It’s all collaborative. These projects are almost designed to question So your goal is to take people out of their routines so theyPUBLIC ART REVIEW | VOL. 24 NO. 1 • ISSUE 47 | PUBLICARTREVIEW.ORG authorship. We’re serving a community, or cultural function, experience place in a different way? but we’re doing it with a real consciousness of metaphor—and Sort of. But it’s also a question of routines being enforced by a geographer has just as much ability to read metaphor in a public spaces and of reshaping these spaces. We need more given place as I do. creative thought, because we’re creating parks and plazas and they’re not being used. What are some examples of that reading from your work with I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of public inti- the Rangers? macy. That’s a difficult term, because it can be construed as Los Angeles is such a privatized city. With the Rangers, some- sexual, but I use it to mean that feeling of being bonded or times we look at confusing spaces, like a private plaza that connected to your tribes. It’s very human to want to be able looks like a public plaza. Or we’ll play games designed to to move fluidly between different collective experiences— make people alert to their surroundings in new ways. Are they and private experiences, too. Public space can either foster or comfortable in a space? Why not? What do they notice? How diminish public intimacy.32 BELOW: Herbert Dreiseitl’s “recycle hill,” which overlooks a restored meandering river system, is topped by local Singapore sculptor Kelvin Lim Fun Kit’s An Enclosure for a Swing. OPPOSITE PAGE: Dreiseitl’s award-winning design for Portland, Oregon’s Tanner Springs Park includes stormwater management and an art wall made from recycled historic rail tracks.