Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Public art: NYC, Bucharest & Skopje

This months cover layout by K.K.W,
photo by K.K.W
Public art: NYC, Bucharest & Skopje. By K.K.W

"Let me begin with a disclaimer; I detest the term Public art. Why? Because there is no creative pursuit that can be categorized as Public art. It is not a movement like Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop Art, or Graffiti, for example that can be defined stylistically or conceptually. Lets be honest, the term "Public art" conjures ideas of banal, even dreadful permanent displays in municipal buildings, from airports to courts. 

Most official opportunities to create public art are encumbered by graffiti-resistant , child-safe, family-friendly, provocation adverse rules, which guarantee that any commissioned artwork will be bland at best." (1)
Artwork by Sol Lewitt @ City Hall NYC 2011.
Photo by K.K.W
As much as it may seem entirely negative, Anne Pasternak does have a point. Given the realities of any modern city/society, creativity doesn't flow easy and in "Public art", even less so. Although one can find interesting and moving "Public art", however this is based on the individual and his or her taste(s). 
Graffiti Mural - East Houston NYC 2012 (Artist unknown)
Photo by K.K.W
1. In Order to have Public Art you need Public space and an open-minded public.

2. To have an open-minded public you need visual artists, those who promote them and  art to help guide (& at times provoke)them towards this.

3. For both of these to happen you need a city within a state or country thats use to social revolutions. 
Monika Sosnovoska -
"Fir Tree" 2012 @ 5th ave
Central Park entrance.
To start with Public art has been around since human beings have been living in urban centers. Civic statuary, monuments, architecture, etc. All of this towards national identity, religious belief, mythology and so forth. 
Artwork by Calder @ City Hall Park, NYC (year unknown).
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 
Modern Public art often has more to do with "fine art" and often can only be defined by its creator, although it often gives the general public something to think about or react to (however briefly).

Given NYC's history, cosmopolitan makeup and social revolutions, we have a more tolerant atmosphere for art that provokes. However most Public art is non-provoking & bland. The reason, in part, for so much of ours is the Public Art Fund started by Doris Freedman in 1977, which is from the merger of two pre-existing organization, Citywalls (started in 1966), and The Public Arts Council (founded in 1977). The organizations work has increased due to the influence of Mayor Michael Bloomberg who is a strong proponent of Public Art.     
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn N.Y.
Photo by K.K.W
Skopje & Bucharest are not the opposite, though certainly not the same. Both cities exist in countries that are formerly socialist/communist, and have become use to capitalism and even more of the West within the last 20 years (The Romanian Revolution in 1989, and Macedonia declaring independence in 1991 for Yugoslavia). 
New triumphal arch in Macedonia Square
(part of "Skopje 2014" project).
Photo by Matej Bogdanovski
Both city's social make up is still very conservative and religious, not so use to radical social revolutions. Not that this means their backwards, far from it. They of course have deep cultural roots when it comes to art, past and contemporary (Adrian Ghenie, Mircea Cantor, Dimitar Kondovski & Collective Zero). The two have cultural organizations geared towards promotion of their arts (IRCNY for Romania & The Ministry of Culture for Macedonia), though neither has, to my knowledge organizations that fund "Public art".    
Public art in Skopje. Photo by Meglena Visinska.
Bucharest & Skopje do have amazing contemporary art scenes (recognized & "underground")geared towards the creation of "Public art" and a society that tolerant towards it. "Public art Bucharest 2007", curated by Marius Babias and Sabine Hentzsch was created to address the problem of a lack of Public space & art. Its a multi-disciplinary project that has the backing from various European organizations. 
Image from "Public art Bucharest 2007"
So far in 2009 Skopje has seen the creation of the "First Archi Brigade", an informal group of architecture students and young architects who look to take a proactive role in designing todays architectural reality. "We are committed to raising public awareness of what we believe is, from an architectural and urban perspective, a negative tendency in the city."(2)
An example of temporary Public art
in Bucharest.
In Bucharest its a problem of city planning and of a lack of Public space and therefore "Public art". As the city was redeveloped during the 80's little thought was given to this. For Skopje its a similar problem made worse, by the opinion of many, with the project "Skopje 2014" (a massive nationalist project to revamp the city with antique statues & buildings).

Modern Public spaces & art gives people place to gather, exchange ideas, and be exposed to new kinds of creativity. Together it creates  synergy in which case gives rise to new social possibilities.
The Skopje city square. Warrior  on a Horse
monument (back). The "Accidental Meeting"
sculpture, 2009. Photo by Petar Kajevski
If you would like to know more, go to:http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/2-articles/655-troubles-with-history-skopje-2014, or:http://www.erstestiftung.org/publication/public-art-bucharest-2007/. "Art is the reason, art is the way" (1) Anne Pasternak, (2) First Arch Brigade manifesto 

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