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Label: public art

Friday 23rd October 2015Lenin? Is That You?

Ukraine has been in the news a lot lately, thanks to the much publicized struggle going on between nationalists and pro-Russian separatists, but that's not all it's been making headlines for. Back in April of this year, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law that has become commonly known as the 'de-Communisation Law', an attempt to retrofit the public culture of modern Ukraine to more accurately match the views of its citizens. A large part of this effort revolves around the removal of Communist-themed public artworks and art installations, from sculptures to plaques to murals to statues.

Enter Ukrainian-based artist Alex Milov, who was actually born in the Soviet Union and has watch the rise and fall of Communist power in the region. He provided a truly unique twist on a sculpture of Soviet-era dictator Vladimir Lenin by transforming the statue into that of Darth Vader, the equally iconic fictional character from the Star Wars film franchise. Located in Odesa, the newly improved statue received a number of upgrades in addition to its cosmetic enhancements, which include the classic cape and helmet combination that helped make Vader so iconic in the first place.

In addition to this new attire, however, the statue was also reinforced with new construction materials to ensure that it withstands the tests of time, a helmet constructed of a titanium alloy and the whole lot painted black with a fresh coat of paint to complete the outfit. As if that wasn't excellent enough, there is also a Wi-Fi internet router located in Vader's helmet which provides free connectivity for anyone in the area. It still gets better, though. Like Han Solo trapped in carbonite, the original bronze Lenin statue is still there, inside Vader's outer trappings. "The bronze Lenin was left inside, so that the grateful or not-so-grateful descendants could exhume him if needed," Milov explained to the Ukraine Today newspaper.

"I wanted to make a symbol of American pop culture which appears to be more durable than the Soviet ideal," Milov said, speaking to the BBC. Ukraine, it seems, has managed to maintain its sense of cultural irony throughout the trying times it has seen recently, something hopefully all of us will be able to do through the power of our artwork.
 

Posted on October 23rd 2015 on 01:41am
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Wednesday 02nd September 2015Public Art Series: Covent Garden

All too much of the world's beautiful artwork is hidden behind a gallery door. While some of these masterpieces must be shielded from the elements, in our reverence we often ignore the works that appear right in front of us in daily life: public art. Breaking down the barrier walls to the inner sanctum of aestheticism, the public art installation is art at its best - art that reaches as many people as possible. To celebrate that role, we're going to be starting a new series dedicated to examining the world's most beautiful and influential public art pieces, both permanent and ephemeral.

In a world where Photoshop can easily alter what appears to be incontrovertible evidence, Charles Petillon has a bit of a problem. His installations are so grandiose that he must constantly work to convince his audience that his photographs are not altered digitally in any way (aside, presumably, from the exposure adjustments that almost every good photographer applies). His typical style, at the moment, involves typically mundane settings transformed into eerie spectacles - using only balloons.

“I want to change people’s point of view, their perspective of a place they see every day and never really look at. A swimming pool, a field: if I suddenly put something strange in it like these balloons you will see it differently. I don’t want my works to be seen just as decoration, there is always something they are trying to draw out or question.”

To that end, his next project involves the world-famous Covent Garden, which he'll be filling with over 100,000 glowing white balloons. Titled Heartbeat, the balloons will pulse semi-regularly with flashes of light that propagate through the entire mass like waves, creating an impressive effect. This is also a first for Petillon, who typically photographs his installations and exhibits the photos, without making the installations themselves available to the public view.

Petillon was a bit nervous about the project from the beginning, saying, “I have never done anything on this scale so it has been quite daunting. Because it is such a historic place, we had to be very careful – I wouldn’t want to be the French man who made Covent Garden fall down.”

Hopefully, he will succeed in his goal of having visitors see the old building in a completely new light. The exhibit runs from August 27 to September 27, so be sure to pop by for a visit if you're in the neighbourhood!
 

Posted on September 02nd 2015 on 05:49pm
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Monday 28th July 2014Public Art Thefts

Public art is often something a gamble. When bureaucracy and art intertwine, it's not always with pleasing results. A perfect example occurred in Ottawa, Canada, recently this year when a public art installation was erected whose entire design and premise was based on an incorrect encyclopedia entry, leading to snickers and jeers and red-faced officials. Almost the opposite occurred recently in New York City, when the Department of Transportation put up a sign-based art project throughout the city.

Actually the work of Ryan McGinness, the signs were part of the Summer Streets project, where large sections of roadway are closed to motor vehicles and opened for public recreation. The signs, which were designed to look relatively official, following the general white, black and red pattern found commonly throughout New York City streets, instead sported much more appealing notices than the usual parking signage.

However, a curious thing began happening - the signs began disappearing. Eventually, the Department of Transportation caught on, and began to replace the signs, but not before 40 of the 50 signs had been stolen by presumably artistically-inclined thieves. The really strange thing, however, is that it seems like the average passerby couldn't care less about the signs, which may blend too closely with the cacophonic visual language that is part of the New York City parking system.

The Department of Transportation is working with the New York Police Department to track down the stolen signage, despite their rather modest production value (roughly $800 USD). What about these art pieces spoke so deeply to some passersby that they felt inclined to steal them, whereas others simply failed to notice them at all? Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Ryan McGinness said, "There's a lot of expense involved, and a lot of labor. To have an individual steal them or to have them stolen by the public really flips that mind-set."

It raises a question about street art that has also been raised thanks to the incredible values placed on works by popular street artist Banksy about who actually owns the pieces that are created on walls and other "canvases" that aren't actually owned by the artist. In this particular case, of course, it's likely that the Department of Transportation could be considered the actual owners of the pieces, but street signage is stolen fairly frequently, and any attempts to sell the pieces would doubtless swiftly bring down the wrath of the NYPD, something that the casual public art thief is likely unprepared to deal with. Here's hoping that the signs are restored, and will continue to bring wonder and joy to those lucky few who take the time to truly appreciate and enjoy their surroundings.

Posted on July 28th 2014 on 05:25pm
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