Today, I was browsing Art News and stumbled across a TED Talk by an artist names Theaster Gates who is working out of the City to be a harbinger of change on the South Side of Chicago by addressing the twin problems of urban blight and the effect of cultural black holes in a depressed neighborhood. It brought to mind other groups who have done amazing work for the good of community, such as Object Orange in Detroit in 2006. It also made me wonder If I could do anything on that scale for my own community.
I have always been interested in the idea of art as a catalyst for social change. Kyle and I flirted with this in our first collaborative show, Passive-Agressive, where we sought to educate people about the information that they share so unthinkingly in their day-t0-day lives. That whole show was built around trust, as in do you trust us enough to swipe your personal cards through the readers in our show? Do you actually want to know what information you are sharing with the world every time you swipe your credit card somewhere?
It was amazing to talk to people about this topic from both an educational standpoint, and to see them actually think about what was going on with their information on a daily basis. Watching people experience their information in ways they had never done before was also an incredible thing. It was almost performance art to see them interact with the pieces.
Afterwards, the thing that you hope so hard for when you create art happened. People began to have a conversation about the work and what it meant to them in their lives. Information works like a virus, it spreads because it wants to be free, and I was more than happy to help it be free to those who were open to it. Being informed makes you more aware of how what you are doing affects both yourself and those people around you.
Presently, I am rehabbing two of the pieces from this show in order to put them on display for another purpose. I hope that the purpose I am using them for sparks just as much conversation as their initial intent did. Interested to know what I’m using them for? I’m announcing it next week.