The final Chicago installation this summer of Commune-ique took place in a high traffic part of town for both tourists and residents. Despite the high amount of pedestrian traffic only about 6 people directly interacted with me to find out more about the structure, how it was constructed, its meaning and its use. Having said that, a free trolley carrying tons of tourist passed by hourly as well as quite a few CTA buses, so the structure was at least being viewed by a large amount of people. The immediate question that arose in my mind was what constitutes dialogue and interaction? When does communication happen? While many viewers may not have directly interacted with the object and its space, I noticed a lot of people pointing and talking about the structure. Is it enough to have people wonder, question and conjecture about a work? What makes the work successful? Is it successful when it meets the goals and needs of the creator or is it successful when it draws people in either visually or spatially? These were just some of the ideas that floated through my mind as I sat outside the structure this time observing people interacting with the work from both near and afar. The next installation of Commune-ique will take place randomly along my route from Chicago to Phoenix over the next week, so stay tuned!
Category Archives: Commune-ique
It was a perfect day in Chicago–the type that keeps one going through those long dark winters. Situated just south of Roosevelt Road and east of Ashland in the University Village neighborhood, this section is similar to surrounding areas. Entire blocks have been swept down to prevent squatting, abandoned buildings and urban blight. As the oldest section of the city, it also saw the first round of neglect as people left the neighborhood for better housing conditions or work opportunities. Unfortunately, many of Chicago’s architectural history disappeared with the demise of these old neighborhoods. The Landmarks Preservation Council attempted to halt demolition of many buildings suggesting alternative methods, but often to no avail. At this location, on a Sunday afternoon, I assumed this would be a totally vacant space. Nothing could be farther from the truth. An entire community had formed along the northwest quadrant of this space and more people were trickling in, walking across wide expanses of vacant lots from all over, to congregate around what appeared to be a food pantry. In addition, some squatters had set up camp along the western portion of this lot in between the church and the food pantry. Many people commented and asked questions about this mobile studio space. Some walked up and touched the material and appreciated the fact that it was hand made. The great thing about situating this structure in non-traditional spaces is that I interact with non-traditional people which makes it all the more fun as no one is afraid to speak their mind and interact with me. It’s a great litmus test for studio practitioners who often miss out on the exchanges or dialogues that art can inspire.
Last week, Commune-ique was placed in two public parks that constitutes a seminal piece of Chicago history. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as a part of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the Midway Plaisance was the walk way for the visitors to the Exposition as well as a model for urban park planning. Wanting to situate Commune-ique at opposing ends of the Plaisance, the structure was first installed in front of the Loredo Taft public sculpture that looks east ward from Washington Park onto the Midway. The second installation occurred at the south end of the lagoon in Hyde Park just behind the Museum of Science and Industry. The first installation was in a high auto traffic route with many people looking out at both Noel and myself accompanied at times with shouts of approval. We had one gentleman join us for a studio session where he designed a butterfly that Noel continued to embellish further with embroidery floss. The second site was a more secluded site and allowed for more casual interaction with folks enjoying the lagoon and nearby park amenities. The lagoon was the perfect location to visit on such a hot humid Chicago day and bask in the slowness of summer. We had one person really interact with us at this location who really enjoyed the craziness of the structure. He actively participated in making two small works for us before heading on his way.
On Wednesday, July 9, we set up Commune-ique at Humboldt Park. Although it was hot and humid, there were still plenty of people out and about. Joining Noel and I are Enrique and Matthew who are from the neighborhood and shared with us a little background information on the gang territories of the park. We also discussed cool graffiti crews and where to keep an eye out for their work. All of us made comments and observations on who uses the park including some who appeared to need both mental and health services, the bicycle crowd behind the Illinois National Guard building and average community members. Thanks Matthew and Enrique–hope to see you again this Wednesday in Hyde Park (despite the projected heat again!!). Also, during the week of July 20, look for Commune-ique at a local park possibly near you as we attempt to make a blow out attempt at installing in many parks as possible! Keep checking back for details–or sign up for a blog subscription to keep posted.
The second installation of Commune-ique occurred near Montrose Harbor, which was slightly north of the original planned installation due to logistical issues of parking, space, etc. While it did seem to serve a smaller crowd, the people who frequented this portion of the park were more leisurely and spent time looking at the structure and inquiring about it’s intent. Inside, I sat working on some larger projects utilizing the space as a demarcated work zone. Unfortunately, I was by myself, and it was impossible to document myself completing such work, but next week, I hope to have my fellow assistant Noel Morical on site to assist with obtaining such images. In addition, the day was the perfect Chicago summer day with slight breeze off the lake and a beautiful clear sky. Hoping that additional installations occur on such days as this!
Today’s public installation in front of the Field Museum started off rather rocky as the National Weather Service had announced a severe thunderstorm watch and tornado like winds. After the damage from the previous weekend, it was a difficult call to proceed. However, along with the help of Roosevelt University students Brenton and Jasmin and SAIC assistant Noel Morical, we were up and running at 1 pm. The structure definitely caught people’s attention and curiosity, however there were no takers (besides students) who wanted to work within the space. In addition to recruiting the public to participate by embroidering onto dyed cotton squares, free art work was handed out to passerbys. It took a moment for people to realize that they weren’t being solicited for a particular social cause other than art awareness. In the end, the Park District patrol came around and demanded the deconstruction as no permit had been obtained to place this structure in the public park in order to give away free art. Fortunately, the collective decided to take their time in deconstructing and we ended up leaving just shy of the scheduled time, and with the temps in the 90’s with the heat index in upper 90’s with humidity, it was a welcome reprieve. Next week’s installation at Lincoln Park will incorporate the structure as more of a portable studio in which I will work on several projects and not solicit people’s interaction, but rather see what occurs as a bystander within the park life on that day.