Learning how to create public art & make change.
“My artwork became about process…not about trying to create a precious object.” -Ellie Balk
“What I’m doing with the cups is I’m up-cycling them. They’re not trash to me, I’m turning them into art objects, which the art gallery sells. I want people who come in here to think about that. What else in their life can they turn into art…that they would otherwise throw away or disregard?” -Gwyneth Leech
- Gwyneth is inpsired by choral music, especially Palestrina and Thomas Tallis, and the blog Laughing Squid
- DIY directions: Gwyneth saves her cups and draws on them with Faber Castell pens and water color. When she’s done with the design she coats the cup with acrylic varnish or other sealants suitable for drawings, to preserve the paper from oxygen, oil, and moisture.
- Here’s a link to the project she inspired in Singapore, Paint a Miracle
- Visit Gwyneth’s blog and facebook, and follow @gwynethleech on twitter
“By valuing the arts I feel like you value..people’s opinions…across race, class because we all express ourselves and arts doesn’t see the color of one’s skin.” -Sharon De La Cruz, graffiti artist and program director of ACTION and WOMEN at The Point
All images courtesy of Sharon De La Cruz and The Point.
Daniel Bejar: My name is Daniel Bejar. I like to say my practice is interdisciplinary. I work with intervention, site specificity, sculpture, performance, and photography as a way to do a cultural critique. I’m interested in critiquing culture and appropriating more or less everything around us.
ArtRoots: What inspired you to work outside a gallery-museum context for Get Lost and Discover?
DB: Well, coincidentally both of them take place in the subway. They’re not connected, but the critique I wanted to make meant they had to be within the subway system.
For Get Lost what I was doing was returning the subway map and the language and signage back to what it hypothetically would have sounded and looked like prior to colonial intervention when Henry Hudson showed up in 1609. Then I wanted to put it back into the system to make it alive.
Someone referred to my work as being populist and there is something nice about everybody being able to experience it. You don’t have to be in the art scene or go to Chelsea. And if you don’t get it on the first time, maybe it’ll pop up on another train and you’ll see it again.
AR: Is accessibility an important like factor in your work?
DB: I think so, yeah. I think it’s also about public space. Like it happens, it’s real, people experience it. A lot of my projects take place at different sites and happen in the real world. And I think that it is really important that they not be closed off to any section of society.
AR: Do you ever think about your work as illegal?
DB: No. I mean I knew what I was doing was illegal but to me it’s not illegal. I know companies pay thousands of dollars to advertise in the subway, so why not? It’s just another voice.
AR: Do you feel like your voice is something that the public wants to hear?
DB: I’m not interested in what they want to hear, you know, I’m interested in what I want to say and if it’s heard it’s heard, and if it’s not it’s not. A lot of my work, well, some of it, does fly under the radar and I really like that. Like the Discover poster, a lot of people don’t get it. It’s just so subtle, you know, the ships that I put on there just look really natural. But I’m okay with that, like if you get it, that’s awesome, and if not, that’s okay too.
AR: I wanted to talk about your Discover poster, which more than your other work, is very obviously political.
AR: Do you think that art is a particularly good tool for the political?
DB: I think it is. Well, I think it can be. I don’t want to sound cynical, but when you’re going up against politicians who have super PACs with unlimited funds, like there really isn’t a way to compete with that spectacle. So that’s why I like going to the other, opposite end, like the so quiet end. But I think art can be political and it should be. For me it’s very important to be political, in my work and in my practice.
AR: Would you call yourself an activist?
DB: No. You can use art in your activism, but I don’t think my work or my goals are activist goals.
AR: What type of goals do you have when you start a project?
DB: That’s a good question. For me a work is to be smart and it needs to be critical. And, then aesthetics would come behind those two.
AR: How do you define success of a project?
DB: Well for Get lost and Discover it worked because I did what I set out to do. Some people saw them, some didn’t. But for me the principle is that I got them up, I carried out what I wanted to do.
But, I mean, to me there’s two layers of success. If I carry out my initial goals for the project, my idea, then that’s one layer of success. And if it’s, say received well within the community or the public space then that’s, to me that’s like bonus, a cherry on top.
I do check on Internet hits for my online projects like Googleganger, just to see what is popular. But that’s just the nature of the site, like that, that’s the context, the Internet, that’s just the way that space works.
In the subway, there really is no way, outside of like maybe seeing a blog or something, to gauge a project’s impact. I mean unless I sat there all day and watched people look at it, and I really don’t have time for that.
AR: How do you see the online space? You talk about site specificity, and if you put something just online, what does that mean?
DB: Umm … to me that’s, it’s just, it’s another space, just like we’re in this room, like that’s just another place to make something.
AR: And do you think about the audience or … is that less important online? Or maybe it’s more important because that’s a bigger audience?
DB: Yeah. I mean again, audience isn’t in my mind when I’m thinking of executing something. It’s the second thought. But online things can go viral. Things are much faster.
With Neither Here Nor There, I just checked the other day and over a thousand people had viewed it, which was kind of awesome, which I never thought of, but it’s good to see.
Niether Here Nor There is an image and coordinates photographed and posted on google earth by Dan that mark the halfway point between the United States and Puerto Rico.
AR: How do you get funding for these projects?
DB: Yeah, good question. That’s the bad part of what I do. I do freelance illustration and that’s pretty much how I fund everything. But that has to change because it’s, it’s not a sustainable way to work at all, and up until now that’s, it’s been self-funded.
I mean a lot of the stuff is not really saleable. And then sometimes when you’re doing things that, I don’t want to say are illegal, per say, but it can be hard to get money for that, you know.
AR: What inspires you?
DB: The movie Style Wars is pretty, pretty good. It’s about the history of tagging in New York.
AR: What appeals to you about tagging and graffiti?
DB: What appeals to me is that anybody can do it. I’m not saying everything is good, but everybody can do it. Which is what I like about the Internet. Everybody has the tools and it’s almost like Andy Warhol’s idea, you know, today everybody has the tools to have 15 minutes of fame.
AR: In the rest of your life, do you do any organizing or activism or any sort of other civic engagement, or is it mostly just your art?
DB: Only seriously through my art. I mean I’ve gone to, to like rallies and things and marches and the Occupy movement.
AR: Have you made stuff for Occupy Wall Street?
DB: No. Well, I started one thing but that didn’t — it’s kind of on hold right now.
AR: Is it that funny hat-thing?
DB: Yeah, this is a Phrygian cap. They look like Smurf hats. They were passed down through history. Freed Roman slaves would wear them to symbolize their freedom. Then during the French Revolution, the revolutionaries would wear them and even in America, during the Revolution, the Sons of Liberty that were down here in lower Manhattan, would wear them.
But what the French would do, they would take the Phrygian caps and put them all over, like on the statues in the city to symbolize freedom. So I made one and I put it on statue in Zuccotti Park. But I started doing this in December and these women were like, “Oh, it’s so cute, it’s a Santa hat.” So the context was lost because of the time.
AR: So you have to wait ‘til it’s the summertime to put them up?
DB: Yeah. I think I’ll wait ‘til like spring or something to start doing it again.
- Follow @dabejar on twitter
- See his work online at danielbejar.com or in person until March 16th at the Systemic Risk show at NURTUREart Gallery, 56 Bogart St., Brooklyn NY or at SiteSantaFe
“Why is it that it would be…left to an activist street culture to remember the people who died in hurricane Katrina?”-Dread Scott, Artist
- Dread is inspired by Basics by Bob Avakian, and the work of Carrie Mae Weems, Fred Wilson, Hans Haacke, Leon Golub, Cai Guo Qiang, Wafaa Bila
- See his work at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York starting January 23rd through April 22nd. For more info visit: http://www.dreadscott.net/category/news
All images courtesy of Dread Scott
“Instead of waiting for someone to give me money… or a space, you go outside and see what …resources you do have that are free and available.” -Shantell Martin
- Want to see Shantell in action? She’ll be teaching a drawing class in Minneapolis (June 5th-8th) and speaking in NYC (March 30th) and Austria (May 16th - 18th)
- Want to intern for Shantell? Message @Shantell_Martin
- Shantell says if you want to become an artist don’t wait for funding. Throw a drawing party at your house, a show in your friend’s living room, and start drawing on your shoes or the wall down the street!
“We’re not providing solutions…We’re providing the platform for people to talk about it, and hopefully we’ll all figure it out together.”- Kristen Svorka & Lana Zellner founders of Ground Up talking about their community art project Art not Arrests
- Want to get involved? Art Not Arrests Construction is happning Sunday, April 1 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Help Ground Up Designers build build the framework and satisfy all urges to get dirty, use power tools, and play outside. Food and beverages will be served. For more info visit http://www.facebook.com/events/286344471436360/
- Kristen and Lana funded the project through Kickstarter and have some great tips, check back soon to hear their funding story
- Follow @GUpDesigners on twitter