The panel discussion that happened as part of Street Meet II was unexpectedly engaging: it was, in many ways, and to quote several people, the antithesis of the stilted, smug conversations that happened at MAIMBY (amusingly, one of the participating artists in SM 2014 described that – MAIMBY – as “horseshit”). It was led by Keeley Haftner with Sterling Downey, Melissa Proietti, Indigo, Sirvis, and Laura Hale.
Regrettably, it wasn’t as well attended as one might hope: whether this was due to an exhaustion with discussions regarding public art, or other reasons (there was significantly less support from aka, this year, and I regret to say that this incarnation of SM was sometimes a shadow of its previous self…), several excellent points were made.
Perhaps one of the linchpins of the intelligent nature of the discussion was that issues of class, disenfranchisement and gentrification were all on the table. As well, one of the panelists wasn’t an artist, which helped to keep any conversations from moving into irrelevant territory, willfully forgetting the “public” in “public art.” I don’t believe the word “education” was used once.
I’m not interested to give a larger synopsis of the panel: it was smart and funny and honest, and I don’t feel the need to take a scalpel to a cadaver to find out what went wrong, like I did with MAIMBY. But I do want to pass on a few excellent points that were made.
One of the artists commented that when you see more of an imposition of “art” in an area, instead of involving the community, its of the same sentiment as how “you can enjoy this [artwork] until you can’t afford to live here anymore, and then you’ll just have to move out.”
That’s a sentiment that many who have seen themselves displaced from 20th Street, in Saskatoon, can agree with. This also played into considerations regarding structured environments as the only place to “experience” art, and how its very clear that some social classes are not welcome in these sites. The debate about the use of the term “graffiti” vs. the term “mural”, and the mainstreaming of the idea of public art in ways that may geld its original intent and content were also touchstones of conversation.
One idea that came up at MAIMBY that was spoken of at SCYAP, where SM’s panel occurred, was the ephemerearllity of public art. Laura Hale’s piece, which lasted barely any time at all, served to break the tradition of the “object” and exists solely as the “experiential memory.” The image at the top of this entry was taken at the end of the first day it was installed. Hale personified the more relaxed, less “Modernist” approach, as she was amused that when the stacked ice was knocked over by one member of the public, another unknown one (or more) re assembled the piece into a new form.
In this manner, aspects of ownership, or lack thereof, where iterated: “Once its done, you walk away from it and its no longer mine.” Even the privileging of the conversations with the larger public during installation, over the object itself, served to remember the “public” in these endeavours. Some other ideas – such as the roles of Google Street Art, making some pieces more accessible than desired, and taking the “joy of discovery” out of the process, were considered and argued about, in a respectful manner.
The various images below are from the three day festival. The top image is from the aforementioned panel discussion at SCYAP, and all the rest are from the walking tour of Street Meet Artists, and a few of the participants in the SM 2014 talk / tour. Some works – like the seated figured in the back alley off 20th – are still there, while others are long gone.
The last stop was a personal favourite, hence the plethora of pictures from that: I enjoyed it not just for the variety of “official” languages on the Emergency Public Art Kit, but also for the choice of site, with the detritus of the failures of past public art projects in this city. Others are Laura Payne, with her video installation in the SSO window space, a work by Indigo, and a fellow SM 2014 Talk / Tour participant, on four legs.
I should also add that the same day I decided to post this entry, this story was in the Star Phoenix, and it reiterates some of the ideas that make public art worthwhile.