June 2001, 40 posts, 1385 lines
I appreciate your efforts to police the other group. Instead of talking trash back, lets open up the forum for discussion about subject that everyone seems to want to talk about ....art. Who has some topics....what would you like to talk about??? I'm interested in the re-use of the figure being rendered in more of a pop/ graphic/ simple color form, it seems to be floating around a lot more lately. Anybody have any other topics.
If you want to raise the level of discussion of the group than do it.
Maybe the discussion about use of the Other Group site needs to happen again- I had not received any info regarding the show that Adam posted-maybe I will receive it again-from support, and even more likely a few friends will forward it, but it was the first. Multiple emails seem to be unavoidable in a community made up of people with similar interests, and although the Other group has definitely been the most annoying for repeats, I also read the messages regularly to check out what is happening. Also there are many art communities in Chicago, all leading a parallel existence-with much cross-over-and it will take at least a couple of places to represent this.
I have found the discussions to be less worth my time than the announcements. In the past many of the conversations have been gripey-intended to provoke-, complaint based, petty, and between two or three individuals. It quickly sputters out until someone has another complaint.
If it is to be a message board based on conversation/dialogue/ maybe it should be set up like one-see artforums new website and talk section-a basic site for posting-or what about an art chat room. Then a choice could be made about participating beyond the severity of unsubscribing, and maybe allow for more of a fluidity of conversation.
The format of Other Group -direct to your inbox-seems perfect for mass announcements.
I am not understanding the "policing" of this site, or appreciating it.
David, have been thinking alot about the figure thing but also landscape-esp. the whole tim gardner thing-interesting to update technique curmudgeon media like watercolour with content -seems like an obvious stragedy but somehow feels fresh. also maureen gallace-odd to look at landscapes, esp. painted ones ..with new interest not dismissal. but these are not pop/graphic simple-necessarily so what work are you thinking of? lots of children of alex katz figure painting happening - it seems like painting in general is having a healthy time-which is nice. personally i think painting is looking really good next to the onslaught of really bad video.
I couldn't agree more with Danielle about all of the issues that she raises.
Repeat appearances of announcements create added and increased visibility for local art-related events and exhibitions. It seems rather paradoxical to argue that no one goes and sees anything (especially those in my profession) and then to rail against a process of information exchange that might increase awareness of these exhibitions/programs/ publications, etc.
Perhaps the repeated appearance of these announcements creates hostility towards them but even if one is unable to attend the event, it increases the likelihood that a name or place will stay on the radar screen or in the frontal lobe.
Danielle's citation of the growing interest in figurative/landscape painting (albeit conceptually-motivated figurative/landscape painting) is very interesting indeed and I'm happy to see people like Tim Gardner and Maureen Gallace being mentioned in this kind of discussion. How does this rub up against the increasing use of new technologies in the creation of art? Does this, following Benjamin Buchloh's polemic against Neo-expressionism in the mid-1980s, "Figures of Authority, Ciphers of Regression," represent a sort of reactionary position or does it represent a more progressive, lo-tech response to the influence of administrative forms of technology into the artmaking and presenting process? I know this is a rather simplistic argument to make, but in the light of the recent Bitstreams show at the Whitney or the increasing production values of some of the work being made today (Matthew Barney, Shirin Neshat, and Damien Hirst come to mind), one begins to wonder...
A friend has asked me find him an illustrator, for a Halloween-themed publication. Food, drink, costumes, party-planning for adults and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' 72 bastard children. It's a paid gig and national distribution (Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble and others, half-million copy run).
This has to happen now, so if you know someone, talk to me or eliminate the middleman and go to Marty, the Rock'n'Roll Chef at 773 989-5341 or RNRC- at aol.com.
Did anyone catch the Public Arts debate last night on ch. 11? I am most curious. From what the Tribune printed a week ago it sounded like there is some dirty pool going on over at the Cultural Center.
I did see some of the discussion last night. I think the problem is mainly bad record keeping. However, I did agree with Scott Hodes about about a need to invest more money in local art and artists -- and helping to build a city that is known for real public art not painted cows.
Yeah, I saw it too. No dirt just a basic problem of numbers. Too ban no one from the cultural center showed up at the show. That does reflect bad on us. I do think theuy have been doing an OK job.
Does anyone knows where that office-work-related show is at. I tried to go last week but could't find the place. Is somewhere in Divivsion ?
This the point, isn't it: what is understood by the City as good public art. The cows and sofas do not cut it. But the guys in the Sears window at least approach something interesting. I was truly shocked to see that the city supported that presentation after thinking that cows and sofas are the norm here.
I am sure many wouldn't argue with the need to invest more in local artists (unless of course they are those who believe artists can--maybe even, should--work under the most limited conditions). My question is how can we make it happen? What was Scott Hodes suggestion?
Scott didn't suggest anything. It wasn't a matter of quality at all.
It was about funding and who gets the money. Scott wants to make sure Chicago artists are used in public projects.
I don't like the cows or sofas either but at least it brings tourists and money to the city. I'm all for that. If a cow makes a family happy for a couple of hours and if that helps them understand what public art is then I'm all for it. We should make those people appreciate art in some way...
On Fri, 22 Jun 2001, Pedro Velez wrote:
Oh, yes, that is why I came to Chicago.
And to visit Marchall Field's Toy Department
Jun 22, 2001 15:39 PDT
Not cows, crap and we can provide that too. That's why this is a city, there is something for everyone, variety man!
I don't like the cows or sofas either but at least it brings tourists and money to the city. I'm all for that. If a cow makes a family happy for a couple of hours and if that helps them understand what public art is then I'm all for it. We should make those people appreciate art in some way... now come on Pedro...am I to believe that you see the cows and furniture as art?
And as far as making a family happy, wouldn't you rather see little children frightened out of their minds by some ghostly Oursler video projected on a cloud of fog?
All I'm saying is that there is enough space for everything in this town.
Why should we be so intolerant or snobby... and... I don't like kids that much and even less when they cry.
They should definitely route some of that cash to someone who could inform public art officials in the city how to speak to the press, "It's the city . . . we juggle money all the time."?!?
actually, while Scott Hodes didn't "suggest" anything specifically, he did in fact say that he would like to see the city investing more money in local artists creating permanent works other than the likes of the cows. he mentioned that this may help retain artists and galleries in the city. the cows are fine, but when that is the only type of project done -- that's not diversity.
This is exactly what I was thinking about when I wrote that the cows and couches are not cutting it. Investing in local artists can work.
Why shouldn't the Chicago Public Art Program be as crucial as the San Francisco Public Art Program--in which 100s of younger artists in the SF community have created Bus Shelter posters along Market Street and which pays a $3000 design fee on top of the production costs--or as relevant as the New York Public Art Program--which includes local artists along with internationally known artists. In NY both NY and international artists are making entertaining, crowd-pleasing work that at least has some thought behind it,never as simplistic as a chair and TV painted over with the CTA map (Michigan and Wacker). Quality is an issue. Witness Navin Rawanchaikul's "I Love Taxi" in NYC's Madison Square Park, a piece that seems to be directed to the same audience that enjoys the cows and couches but is smarter about its context. actually, while Scott Hodes didn't "suggest" anything specifically, he did in fact say that he would like to see the city investing more money in local artists creating permanent works other than the likes of the cows. he mentioned that this may help retain artists and galleries in the city. the cows are fine, but when that is the only type of project done -- that's not diversity.
Lorelei Stewart, Visiting Director Gallery 400
Thanks Lorelei for saying what really needed to be said. It's the lack of presenting works that hold up both ends of the bargain, making new, important, challenging, and provocative works that also engage an audience in the public space visually, emotionally, intellectually, etc., that is so frustrating and problematic. The artists are doing the work, both here and abroad. Why we aren't seeing it in the streets, parks, and plazas in Chicago is ridiculous.
Another point that is totally missed by the city is that "Chicago" is more than a two mile stretch of Michigan ave. At least the "Chicago" that Chicagoans live in.
So I've been turning it around in my head, and we can think a million criticisms of these things. Let's come up with other ways to do it. There is a general consensus that one of the leading benefactors of these "public arts projects" is in the area of tourism. How about the funding comes from that budget? The city has departments that deal in just boosting tourism, so they must have budgets for Initiatives of this kind of thing. If they need artists to work with them, then they can do so.
I feel that a public art project should impact the people of this city. We pay for it. Eli's cheesecake does not. They only make money. The city makes money. Just like every one "juggling money", everyone involved makes their cut off this pork barrel. That's why they juggle it.
Why is the city afraid to do something in our neighborhoods? What about a project that has fifty northside artists create works, fifty south siders create works then install them in the opposite neighborhoods. Chicago has been rated as one of the most highly segregated citys in the country. Why not try to tackle that? If the greyhairs and suits like cows, let's do cows in each of the Park Districts parks? In the grass where kids can hang on 'em, like an actual cow.
Maybe if we start proposing alternatives we won't be ignored so easily. Speaking for myself, I no longer want to scrap the entire thing. Annoying as it has been, at least these cows and couches are something. Something that kids can look at and wonder about, something better than a garbage can on the corner. But if it is all about the creativity of Chicagos artists, let's actually have something to say about it.
Hello again--- Have a favor to ask everyone.
Gravy magazine is considering a new look for its opening web page. If you have a second try it out, I would really appreciate it. It is being hosted at: http:.//monkeydesign.com/gravy is it too slow too big just right cool as hell hot stuff Lemme know.
If you forward this email to five other people, Gravy will send you a check for fifty dollars immediately. You gotta try it! I just got my check in the mail.
Thanks, Adam Mikos
Last fall, during November (Chicago Artists' Month) the Department of Cultural Affairs (DOCA) and Chicago Office of Tourism (COT) sponsored a series of tours and art events that dealt with local art scenes. For people who were not aware of this, the events covered a broad spectrum, including a tour of apartment/alternative galleries. The way I understood it, the DOCA arranged the events and the COT paid for general cost (printing and such). I was told it was a great success and that it was to expand in the year 2001. I suppose if some people, who had a well thought out plan, could propose an event or project to the DOCA.
Last fall we had 30-40 people come to STANDARD, many who would not have ever visited on their own. I know some may say that this is only a small token, but it is something. I think there are many avenues to explore in finding public funding for art and artist, one just has to look.
Now for something less constructive. Adam be careful about general statements like you have about the way things work. Eli's cheesecake is paying a great deal of business taxes that do go towards the City's budget. Remember our discussion about the renovation of Soldier's Field. The largest funds for the this came from the Hotel Tax. The is the same funds that the Field Museum was hoping for. I do agree that everyone wants to be a hog butcher and get a slice of the meat. I think most people forget that Scott Hodes represents many blue chip artists that stand to benefit from the city buying more public art.
Don't get me wrong, I think he is doing all of us a great services. But, he had to make a great deal of money to afford an art collection as great as his and the huge condo he lives in near Michigan Avenue. I agree that the cows and couches are quite lame. Thanks to Chicago (really the Swiss in the mid-80's) this crap has spread to other cities, including New York and New Orleans. It not such a local thing, everyone sees the success the cows had for the city and wants it for themselves. It's the Hollywood syndrome. However, I must say, general folk really liked them. In my few travels, I have talked to people in planes or bars about the cows and they think they are great. Even after I explained how this ruse of "supporting" the artist was false. I just wonder if people outside of the art scene really care about the content as much as we do.
Perhaps if we look it in a different light. We all know how most major museums are switching their formats to provide more accessible mainstream shows. These shows generate a great deal of revenue for the museums. Kind of a necessary measure with increasing operating cost and lack of funding. I hate these shows, to me the are boring, but the general public love them and they go. Who saw the poll in the Trib a while back about the attendance at major museums versus sporting events. Surprisingly, the museums had a greater attendance. There is a flip side, the museum's can still fund smaller contemporary and challenging shows with the excess of revenues generated. I think the Art Institute does this well. Perhaps, we could think of the cows as another Monet show. I think we should tell the city about any plans that we might have, they just might listen.
On Mon, 25 Jun 2001, Adam Mikos wrote:
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Chicago artists have taken the action out to the streets. Temporary Services does it all the time ( Public Interventions, Deborah Stratman's parking booth, The Warming Center, Free Boutique... and Nato Thompson has done it too with Counter Productive Industries. We don't really need money from anyone... so why complain ? Just look and be aware of what's really going on in the city. The Chicago art scene is not the West Loop.
I agree with David. We can't just complain and expect to shove our snobby art up the tax payers nose. If some people like the cows, that's just great, it's like Art 101 for the masses. We must be respectful and not bashing the cows is a way of proving how serious we can be.Only then we can ask for our piece of the cake.
This is a good website to check out-in regards to just how amazing a public arts projects can really be. [http://www.creativetime.org] Recently takahashi murakami did a project funded by creative time in grand central terminal..and i think the times square pippolotti rist was also a creative time thing...I have heard the funding for the projects is benefit driven..(those expensive tickets do usually support something...) Creative Time is an intersting model for public art projects, hosting the projects of artist both established-(lawrence weiners text manhole covers ) and also of artists earlier in their careers. It also seems to me the way the program is set up-- that in developing specific project for a specific very public site, the artist can push at their own practice, and that is an exciting prospect.
Creative time and other public arts groups in new york exist simultaneously as cow projects. We can have a conversation about public art and not go back and forth about cows (my big wish) but how amazing it would be to see a large scale project by----you provide name---in grant park, or wherever. The conversation need to extend itselfs beyond its location.... --well i just got pedro's email and i agree those examples are good-but again lodged in a chicago conversation that could be extended.
On Mon, 25 Jun 2001 dro- at enteract.com wrote:
I'll not bite my tongue. Yeah we can, we can be snotty (or snobby), and still ask for money. But do you really want public money?
The cows were totally dismissable as art because none of them went anywhere beyond providing advertising for a sponsor, or a design cute as wallpaper for a kindergarten playroom. Of course I'll be wrong when in two hundred and fifty years they show up in "The Complete History of American Art 1492 - 2250" and despite the fact that a lot of "real" artists proudly made and displayed cows.
More than a few were censored also - the graffiti cow, the headless cow, the hung-by-the-hocks side-of-beef cow - by DPA and by the concensus among sponsors. So, besides the ones which we never saw, and besides the best efforts by designers, architects, and other common folks to outdo each other, what was so great about the cows?
The very designs which were accepted were judged not by your peers, but by a group of sponsors who felt the need to not offend anyone. The cows were as radical as copy that accompanies advertisements: it says nothing, just made you feel good that there are words. But I think the predictable blandness is but the slightest objection.
I warned off an initial sponser and pulled my entry once i started to get a feel of the commercialization of the cow project; I frankly didn't want to be part of it. Are all of you so eager for slight glory that you will sell yr soul? Especially in Chicago. Anywhere else on earth public art does whatever it does, but in Chicago anything involving tax moneys will always be politicized, it will involve unaccountable transfers, and deals.
I disagree with Pedro. I don't think for a minute that "We must be respectful and not bashing the cows.." I think we should bash all the time, question, antagonize, demand accountability, dismiss that sort of "public art" as stupid, be a thorn in their side. You want to hedge your bets on opinions, practice deceipt and double talk -- just to get a piece of the cake? wtf - that aint why I'm in this business.
What other single priveledge do you have as an artist except to be honest?
I was working for the Department of Cultural Affairs last year when the planning for Chicago Artists' Month began. The DCA is, in fact looking for creative ways to help support local artists and galleries other than grants (they do give grants, however, they don't have the money to increase the amounts given). The best thing they can offer (in my opinion) is marketing/promotion and organization.
However, there are many ways they could help that don't involve them spending a lot of money. They might also offer free rooms for small meetings or events at the Chicago Cultural Center -- I've had artist slide presentations, receptions and meetings there. If you are interesting in collaborating with others for a purpose other than just self promotion - you're ideas will go a lot further with the DCA.
The person to contact is: Eva Silverman - 744.4405. Department of Cultural Affairs 78 E. Washington Street Chicago, IL 60602
In defense of the city and to show what city
sponsored art for the masses can be - I stumbled across a Puppetroplis
event at the Thompson Center on Friday. There were a good 100 people
gathered around this puppet show
- all ages, all types (business people taking lunch, tourists, people there for the state offices etc) and most seemed intrigued. So I started watching, expecting some banal Mr. Rogers type puppet show - but this thing was out there, a little difficult, and very very strange (I like it weird but this was beyond me).
Definitly not the high gloss wallpaper of the cows - and people if not liked it at least stuck around to experience it. It proves that you don't need to dumb it down to appeal to a broader audience, you just have to be smart about it. (I don't think this was through the DCA, I think it was a Mayor's Office project - and maybe I just caught an interesting one.)
Along the lines of public art with a social conscious, involving communities that can use it. Check out todays Chicago Tribune, in the Metro section. Read the story that is on the center of the front page: "Messages right from young hearts."
This is a reason to pursue money for good ideas.
I don't think my point is clear. What I'm trying to say is stop complaining and don't expect the government to pamper you. Instead of being so Chicago (complaints , complaints, and more complaints) Just do it! Find the money or the iniatitive and do your own public project.
I think it's you who isn't clear on the topic. I don't know anyone who doesn't already do renegade type stuff. The point here is that there are also other avenues to watch for. Including private funding, including city money. If you wear blinders you're gonna miss a lot.
In addition, we are discussing that there is money set aside for independant projects that is/might be getting abused by the people who are supposed to be spreading it around. That really gets under my skin. It's fine if it isn't coming to me, but if it going for asshole suits new boat or theater tickets I want to know.
Just to clarify.
I think the point of the other group discussion on this point is to be able to do something. Just complaining or just saying "Just do it." don't create dialogue and don't activate relationships that can be productive. As I've read these postings on the public art issue I've seen what can be the beginning of a mobilization, an effort to effect change in the City's public art program.
Its a beginnin because this discussion allows people to begin to articulate their ideas and to learn about related ideas and to augment the ideas of others.
I get very frustrated in this forum when people say things like just do, find your own money, make your art on your own kitchen table. Artists are an integral a part of this city and so should have a voice in collective decisions about what is presented as art or in the place of art.
Artists and art workers can change the course of the city's cultural development. And this can only happen collectively. We do have a voice and can effect change if we communicate and develop ideas. I'm all for a DIY perspective but I don't think it will make the big changes. Its 2001 and its time to reexamine the 1990s DIY perspective and understand how cooperation and mobilization can advance a shared agenda.
On a related note: Is the proclivity to complain and to retreat truly a Chicago tendency? If so, maybe this is the first obstacle to overcome.
I'm not against funding. Most of my shows are funded by private collectors.
And what's so wrong with a "do it yourself attitude". Tired of it ? Why ? and How ? We know the money won't go to interesting projects like the Great Guffau or The Warming Center. At least not until those with sofas, ping pong tables and cows in their head are out of office. And if they ever decide to do something "risky" during our lifetime... it will go to whoever Rhona Hoffman or Donald Young pushes.
check this out and get some ideas, public art is not just a big sculpture or mural. THE GREAT GUFFAW 932 N. Rush Street (meet on the corner of Oak and Rush in front of Prada) July 1, 2001, 11:30 a.m. For more information call: 773.927. 6453 Contact: Meg Duguid
The Great Guffaw is an audience participatory laughing project meant to insight laughter in public places around Chicago. The f Once at Starbucks the participants will be split into groups of 2 and put on synchronized two-minute timers. At the end of two minutes the participants will guffaw inciting uproarious laugh in all. Participants should meet at the corner of Oak and Rush in front of Prada to pair off and get ready to laugh. For more information call: 773.927.6453
I'm new here at othergroup but I've been reading this public art dialogue and I can no longer remain silent. It is important to remember that it wasn't all that long ago that Chicago actually had some large honest-to-goodness vital public art endeavors that were at least in part funded by the city/Illinois Arts Council. I'm thinking of Randolph Street Gallery, which diverted it's own funding to artists who submitted proposals for public art projects that would be exceptionally hard to fund without RSG's support. I'm thinking primarily of Mary Jane Jacobs' Sculpture Chicago / Culture in Action projects.
These initiatives allowed artists to conceive and develop new projects that happened in diverse communities and not just the usual stretch of Michigan avenue. The projects were not contaminated by the overt disgusting displays of corporate sponsorship/advertising that have marked nearly every recent public project in this city. Many of the Sculpture Chicago projects included the communities where the work would be sited (HaHa's 'Flood' project which grew food for people with AIDS from a hydroponic garden in a Rogers Park storefront).
At least one project (by Dennis Adams I think?) did not happen because after a lengthy dialogue that included the community, it was determined that the community didn't want it. These public projects allowed for the democratic participation of people outside of the art world. They allowed for dialogue and as a result sometimes things got a little messy. Not every project was successful but attempts were made to present genuinely new ideas and to create real dialogue.
This is extremely different from the shit we have been encountering lately where art/ideas/shit are imposed on people with no dialogue. At best these projects are temporary and will eventually go away (Lora Mosquera's innocuous paintings of generic hipsters that decorated some scaffolding in the shopping district on State Street - A Sears commission if I remember right). At worst these projects are permanent and will remain in the spots they were plunked down in with minimal thought for years to come (Josh Garber's abysmal sculpture "Episodic" that was unceremoniously dumped at Grand and Western thanks to a generous "gift" from the West Loop Gate Community [marketing] Group.
It is no wonder that artists do things themselves considering the non-opportunities that exist right now for any kind of city/institution sponsored public art projects. Artists have to develop new structures to get their ideas out into the world when things are this grave. Being told that you can paint a couch or a cow is not an opportunity - it's an insult coming from people who are hardly in a position of understanding to suggest how artists should proceed or apply their ideas.
There is a real need for smart, democratic, provocative, critical public projects that allow for the participation of the people that have to live with the stuff. This clearly doesn't fit with the vision of people like Mike Lash who continually champion insulting commercial garbage and plop sculptures. People that fund public projects need to understand that slapping corporate logos on things compromises ideas. The poorly designed poetry in motion CTA posters are roughly 1/3 advertising and 2/3rds bland poem. If this is how things must be presented then they should be paid for out of pocket and executed properly. Artists would probably be better off going door to door asking for money/help for public projects from people that live in the communities where they'd like to execute the work. They would likely find more open-minded people at random than the visionless folks we have in the Public Art Department.
Okay, that's the end of my spiel for now.
On Fri, 29 Jun 2001, Marc Fischer wrote:
nice. and thanks. Noticing a certain silence, I was afraid that things had come to an end after the posting from Lorelei Stewart which started with ...
I am not so sure.. We certainly dont need silence, but also cant expect that anything will get resolved after a half dozen postings. There really has to be an active and ongoing harangue - and it may have to go on for years before it becomes a critical mass and results in changes. IMHO, dont complain about the complaints (meta-complaints), just fuel the fury. It needs to go outside of the OtherGroup, also. It has to acrue political power. How do you do that?
Despite describing some interesting past public projects that have received city funding, I don't feel the best solution is to work through the city or to rely on the city for anything - particularly at this point in time.
Extremely ambitious and vital projects can be executed on a large scale through working independently. Doing projects and working with people to build independent networks that are NOT dependent on institutions and city governments allows you to execute large exciting projects with a minimum of bullshit and bureaucracy.
If institutions do come through and offer support and opportunities to do uncompromised work, that's great. In the meantime, you can do a whole lot of work without them.
Of course my vision is not to put a bronze sculpture downtown that's taller than the Picasso, or to compete with the cows. I'm completely resistant to that model of public art. Good artists can wrap their ideas around problems like a lack of money and still come through with exceptional work.
There are millions of good reasons to avoid working with the city. It is understandable to be annoyed by all of the money that is spent plopping one piece of shit sculpture after another down along Navy Pier. But I don't see a lot of people actually trying to use publicly accessed space to create new audiences for art and ideas. Those of us that are doing this work are not hindered by the lack of city support. We just go out and do our work with the understanding that it will not last forever and most of it is not designed to last forever.
This is fine. Good projects often resonate for longer periods of time than they remain visible. I get a stronger feeling from a photo of a Gordon Matta-Clarke piece that has been gone for years, than I do from an up close and personal experience of most of what passes for public art in this city.
Can anyone think of any really critical examples of recent or current public art projects in Chicago that were heavily supported by corporations or institutions AND that were not somehow seriously compromised, dumbed down, or stripped of their vitality because of the involvement of corporations and institutions? From what I have seen, I cannot. I can however think of quite a few projects that were done independent of the city and without permission that were quite powerful and interesting. I don't know where Lorelei got the idea that Doing it Yourself is somehow something that was bound to the 1990's. I thought it was a timeless concept which one simply must resort to in order to do anything properly when the circumstances are too shitty to conceive of the idea ever taking form in any other way.
One small comment, because I think this discussion is becoming polarized into all or nothing. Gordon Matta-Clark worked outside institutions and with them.
And for all the ambition of working outside institutions I think that that behavior often, quite often, causes further polarization. Don't believe that some purity exists.
And why give up just because a history is dismal? If you have the wherewithal and smarts to believe you can do-it-yourself why not go a further step and believe you have the wherewithal to work with corporations and/or institutions in a smart, uncompromised way?
You are right about Matta-Clark and right about being able to do things both ways and all ways. I'm not arguing for a purist approach that rejects all institutional support. But I would still like to see institutions and art museums/centers back provocative critical new work without turning every public art project into a new venue for advertising/self-promotion.
MoMA's banners project is typical of the turn things have taken - inviting artists to essentially create hanging ads for the museum under the guise of public art. If Matta-Clark did his architectural projects today they'd likely get accompanied by a big cheezy PR campaign, a museum membership drive at the site, and maybe some t-shirts for sale at a little mini gift shop stand.
The split house would probably have a Home Depot logo stenciled on the roof. It just seems that fewer corporations and institutions are willing to let the art and ideas they sponsor have any space to breathe. There are exceptions but they are becoming few and far between. I think artists have to fight for their projects to get presented properly in order to maintain any kind of integrity - lots of artists are obviously willing to sacrifice a lot in order to get their funding.
This is encouraged at a nice young age with SAIC's Michigan Ave. shop window competition which is now an annual event where the 'winners' get to provide a cute background for product - another lame guise for public art and 'valuable' exposure. Too often you do wind up with nothing when people start slapping logos on or in front of your projects and museums start reducing the art they are exhibiting to a goofy one liner for their CTA ad campaigns.
I'm not giving up on support coming from the top but it is clear that things are moving in an increasingly commercialized direction as nearly all public art begins to assume the function of advertising for the people that helped 'make it all possible.' Artists can do plenty without this kind of 'support'.
When you need help or are offered help you can try to negotiate for the best possible result for all involved and maybe things will work. I'm not totally pessimistic and I have been indirectly helped by others that have done this kind of negotiating.
In many cases however, in the amount of time it would take to get institutional or city funding for one project, three projects could have been executed inexpensively with the help of a support network you have worked to build on your own. Keri's suggestion earlier about the availability of free rooms in the Cultural Center for lectures/meetings/etc is quite helpful.
Likewise, it is possible to rent nice little rooms in Harold Washington Library at a rate of $35 for four hours. These are great venues for day long projects. If anyone knows about or has access to other free or cheap rooms or empty lots that would be available for one or two day public events (in any part of the city), please contact me off-list. You might able to help a number of projects come to fruition in the next six months or so.
I am glad Marc has decided to jump in on the discussion of "public art" because I think he presents a clear picture of the problems of contemporary public art. It is a clear enough picture, I believe, such that hopefully the discussion can move to the problem of art practice in general.
Many people do not approve of the couches and for many reasons I believe they are highly problematic points for consumerist daydreaming. However, just like the cows, I do enjoy the fact that regardless of all their corruptible dilemnas, they still manage to address audience in a far more interesting manner than most contemporary artists.
Are the couches discussing anything of interest? Not generally. Are most artists today really interested in a subject or conceptual framework? Not generally.
Are the couches interested in a diverse audience? Yes. Are artists interested in a diverse audience? Not generally. I agree with Marc that the couches exemplify the problematic position of government funded public projects because they simply cater to business concerns. But I must say that many artists in Chicago would be in a difficult position to say they didn't do the same. For both systems, I believe it is simply a matter of differing clientels. It is no coincidence that object based work will forever occupy the hearts and minds of Chicago so long as it is predominately a commerical focused city.
But alas, hats off to those who escape such constraints! Whoohoo! But alas, how long do they expect to survive? I, personally, am not a fan of suffering. Not for art. Not even for love. No, the forty hour work week is serious tragedy. I'm not much for self sacrifice in the way of anti-consumerism. Smells either bourgois (I am independently wealthy so I only allow myself the purity of doing non commerical endeavors) or it smells of egomania (I only do non commercial work so that I can perpetually castigate those trying to get by on their work). But isn't this a catch 22?
Sure. But I suspect it is because we are still caught up in some very limiting paradigms about our situation. Careerist self identification as "artist" is already a commercial enterprise. One gains a lot by identifying themself as their career. But this myopic vantage point will forever find themselves in the culdesac of 'selling out' verses 'keeping it real'. I really would like to get out of this problematic ways of approaching the world.
The death of art should have killed it. Sadly enough, it goes on. Couldn't we for a second approach things from the perspective of radical practice/lifestyles/modes? What one does for a living shouldn't encapselate their existence escpescially in such a hyper consumerist driven culture where all roads lead to the Gap. Objects and actions do not stand alone. They are all involved in highly complex matrices of power/control/capital. Trying to find our way out of the box with a limited stratum called art seems ludicrous.
I commend those that are interested in having their projects resonate with a wide audience. I commend those who are wise enough to get out of the gallery once in a while. But beyond that, I commend anyone whose "work" manages to not only attract audiences as diverse as the couches, but also manage to communicate more radical/perplexing modes of existence while they are there.