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collage, social practice art and ethics

Sunday, December 12, 2010


But
letʼs
talk
collage
first.
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with collage, you
• can participate, whoever you are
• donʼt have to spend much money
• recycle
• put things together that normally donʼt go together
• create something new
• collaborate with accident, limitations, & people
• take your time, stop, sit and socialize
• look for and notice details
• make good work through good decisions & ideas

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Iʼll return to collage as a metaphor for social
practice art (and for life). But first...

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letʼs talk about social practice art, what it is (or might be)
and how it fits in our collage of a world
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optimistic public art
Social practice art is positive, hopeful and involves
non-art people as participants in the process. This
kind of art helps guide people toward creativity and
toward connecting with art and each other.

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where social practice art
comes from:
• public art
• Institutional Critique
• community art
• interactive art
• relational art
• performance art and happenings
• environmental art
• outsider art
• dada and surrealism

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Hugo Ball
dada, cabaret voltaire
Zurich, 1916

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Also:
• sociology
• social work
• anthropology
• environmentalism
• education
• journalism
• community outreach
• community development

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Second Story creative writing program
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Social practice art is distinct from
academic art or the high arts movements
in that it doesnʼt require association with
formal art theory or training and it breaks
away from the conventions of any
particular structured aesthetic theory.

The work, when displayed, does often


have an outsider or handmade aesthetic.

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so

som

Harrell Fletcher “Some People From Around Here”


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this art about other
people (besides
artists) — but not
about vague ideas
and concepts — is
easier for a public
audience to enjoy.

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who are you and what do you want
Big Car, 2008

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social practice art is about
people and about the world
around us. It is empathetic
art and requires artists to be
capable of empathy.

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it is crowd-sourced art
This is similar to what we see all of the time with
crowd sourcing entertainment on the Internet
(YouTube, Facebook, etc). People love to
participate. They love to express themselves. And
they like to see work that is made by people who
come from a similar place and background. These
are the things that happen with social practice and
more community-oriented public art.

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ethical issues
The public shouldnʼt be used or pandered to.

It is important that the people involved understand what


you are doing, even if they donʼt see it as art.

You should be clear you are working as an artist. You


should consult with experts and not overstep your bounds.

You shouldnʼt make big promises that art or your project


will solve social problems.

You canʼt take authorship over other peopleʼs lives, stories


or creations. Ultimately this is public art and belongs to and
is made by the public.
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When times are bad and money is tight, is it ethical — as
an artist and as a creative person — to waste resources, to
be excessive?

Is it ethical to create work that not only doesnʼt help people


but isnʼt about them at all?

“I started to feel
guilty making art that
was about me.”
- Harrell Fletcher,
leading social
practice artist

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some of the Big Car team
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Why do this?
Big Car, which has always been influenced by
the philosophies of the Dada and Surrealist art
movements (where collage came from), started
with a focus on collaboration and building a
community of artists who work in different ways.
So, over the years, weʼve put on art shows,
poetry readings, music shows, dance
performances and plays — bringing all kinds of
people together through collaboration.

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collage party at Big Car 2009
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Listen: IMA “On Procession” art parade 2008
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As we thought about what to do next, we knew it
was important to connect with people together
from the community at large. Made for Each Other
is bringing joy to a lot of people — and helping our
community grow a new group of art lovers by
involving them and engaging them in the process.

So our new mission statement and guiding


principle is this: Big Car sparks new artistic
ideas and initiatives that strengthen communities.

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music & dance performance Indianapolis
Museum of Art 100 Acres, fall 2010
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Made for Each Other
...is a series of eight community art projects taking
place in neighborhoods across Indianapolis during
2009-2010. MFEO is social practice art —
meaning that the projects are social, interactive
and interpersonal in nature. This kind of art is
about projects that involve, engage and help
people and communities grow. Social practice art
and MFEO are about people and place versus the
creation of traditional art products.

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We call it Made for Each Other
because the projects are just that —
made for and by each other in our
community. If it sounds like the title for
a romantic comedy thatʼs just fine.
This series is all about exploring a
real love for our city and our
neighbors — and having fun making
art together while helping the
community in small ways.

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MFEO projects...
... in Indianapolis ask people from eight different
neighborhoods to join us in creating shows and
events within the context of the neighborhoods. We
bring neighbors together to help with the planning,
creating and celebration of each project.

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public public art
MFEO moves public art from Downtown and a
focus on cultural tourists visiting there to
community locations in city neighborhoods across
the city. The audience is people who live nearby.
The art is no longer just dropped in out of nowhere.
The social nature of these projects connects
members of the community with the final product.
The work located in each community is about these
communities in authentic ways. The work is made
based on ideas and input from neighbors engaged
in the communities. And the community is part of
the creation and celebration of the projects.

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the process
• start with gathering ideas and talking with people
• team up to form a great idea for a project
• work with people to make things happen
• bring all together to experience and celebrate it
• document everything along the way

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MFEO projects so far
• Thrift Store Music at Central Library

• Pictures of Us and Our Neighborhood in the Southeast


• Playing Andy Goldsworthy at Skiles Test Elementary
• Kountry Kitchen project at The Project School in
Martindale-Brightwood
• Community dance performance in West Indy
• We are Here drawings of houses in the Near East
• Test Fest environmental art installation exhibition
• Learning about the world at the grocery store with Harrell
Fletcher at Saraga Market in Lafayette Square
• Collage Creatures on the Near West Side

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thrift store music, spring 2010
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southeast photo project, winter 2009

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playing Andy Goldsworthy at Skiles Test, spring 2010
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MFEO sculpture at Skiles Test Elementary
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Kountry Kitchen with The Project School, spring 2010
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West Indy stories and performance
with Susurrus, summer and fall 2010
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We are Here project on the Near Eastside
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Test Fest, fall 2010
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learning about the world at the grocery store
Saraga Market Nov. 13, 2010
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collage creatures project, fall 2010
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what can you do?

Start by thinking of big or small concerns.


Then brainstorm creative or artistic ideas that
could help. Consider the ethical implications
of the ideas. Consult experts as needed.
See what people think of the ideas. Include
them in making it happen if they like it.
Document and celebrate.

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Jim Walker
bigcar.org
made4.org
secondstoryindy.org
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thanks!

Sunday, December 12, 2010