'Sidewalk Art' Artist Dialogue with Feng Jin

Artist Dialogue with Feng Jin

 

Sidewalk Art brings installation art out into the streets for the public eye. What are your ideas on public art? (Especially in contrast to gallery art.)

 

Whatever its form, public art attracts attention, delivers the idea and message from the creator as well as interacts the visual material and artistic thought with viewers. Just like a movie, the form of public art can be commercial or purely artistic in various type of subjects. And it doesn't matter what type of media the creator uses, as long as the content is good or interesting, everyone would watch.

I think the contrast in between public and gallery art is that public art reflects the knowledge of  an artist toward our living environment and society. How "people orientated" the artwork can be as well as how the artwork is suitable to the public environment are two major concerns for the presentation.

 

For Sidewalk Art the idea of a 'store' or 'shop' was incorporated into some of your designs. What influence did this venue have on the piece that you created for this show?

 

As a Chinese who lives in the U.S. for more than 15 years, Chinatown happens to be a place I can relate to--restaurants, Chinese character signs, messy and crowded streets...this is an environment full of "Chinese stereotype". I feel like doing something that people in my community can enjoy, something that is not stereotypical that non-Chinese visitors find interesting and fun to watch.

I found that my "Tao of Metal" series suit this project. These "character-like sculpture" only adopt the spirit of Chinese cursive and calligraphy and do not intend to be made to represent any actual Chinese or Japanese characters (but some of the sculpture might coincidently look like or similar to the actual characters). I intend to give native Chinese audiences a new way to view and re-think the written language that we use daily. I hope the Chinese viewers don't try to "read" but "view" my work as some sort of sculpture or artistic presentation, not calligraphy.

For any viewers who do not read Chinese, these sculptures are just purely symbols for them, as they can relate to the impression of Chinese characters and regenerate a new point of view.

 

Stores are often about consumerism, what are your ideas on the viewer consuming art, instead of products?

 

As an artist who sells his own art work for living, I often need to think of the question such as "What am I selling?" "How do I sell it?" "What type of work do people like to collect (buy)?" There are always such questions behind my creation. Displaying my art in a storefront does give me an opportunity to re-think these questions.

Artwork needs to get exposure so the viewers would recognize and consume it, such a concept is just like a product needs to be displayed in a storefront in order to get consumers' recognition. Many artists often think that galleries or museums are the only place to show art in the public. In fact, the way of presenting art to the public has changed, alternative spaces such as Internet, coffee shops, office buildings and commercial storefronts provide wide choices for artists to express their ideas and creativities. Art collectors or art lovers who would like to buy art are inspired by the art presentation that the artist made.

 

There were certain challenges and barriers in this project. For example, the physical barrier of the door, window, and low-lighting that working in a storefront space entails. How did you work with these challenges? Did you use these elements as part of your design?

 

I think the challenges of conducting an art installation in an actual storefront are: To improve the existing scene; and make my work properly fit-in to the environment. The installation needs to be "Site Specific"; therefore, I can not just "fill up" my existing artwork to the space and call it a day.

There are problems and limitations in this storefront site, such as graffiti on the window, no interior light and a huge interior space that needs clean up and remodel. And since we do not open the door to allow viewers to come and see the work, there is actually just a "storefront" that need to be shown. I have to cover almost the rest of the unwanted space for my installation.

Taking the graffiti as an example, when I found out there is no way to clean these graffiti on the window I decided to make my work just "blend-in". As accepting the graffiti as part of my presentation, I've covered almost half of the storefront in red fabric so the graffiti can be seen even clearly, consequently separating the outside graffiti with my calligraphic sculpture inside of the storefront. Such a makeover may allow my audiences to be more curious about what's inside of the window so they can be more focus on the art work inside of the window.

Public art should not just be an art installation decorating the environment. An artist has a duty to make his/her art "make sense" to audiences in that specific site.

 

I see many pedestrians peering into the windows of your installations. How would you like people to interact with your piece?

 

I would like to see my viewers just look at my artwork and enjoy, perhaps discuss with their company or friends. Of course, I hope that pedestrians would lay their eyes on my work every time when they pass by the site, in addition to remind them something or make them think of something. That's what a piece of "Public Art" means to a creator, the work needs to be seen. And the viewers need to receive stimulation or impact through such an action.

While installing my sculpture in the storefront, I discovered an interesting fact that many native Chinese viewers have tried to identify which piece of work related to what Chinese character. I was hoping that maybe they can end up discover a poem from my work and tell me about it.

 

Sidewalk Art 金鋒訪談

 

1) Sidewalk Art 將裝置藝術帶進了街道上的店面、提供公眾觀賞。你對公共藝術有什麼看法? (特別是與畫廊做對比。)

 

答:無論其形式為何,公共藝術是一種吸引公眾注意力、提供藝術家所要表達的思想與信息的藝術,這種藝術透過視覺材料來表達創作者的思想並讓作品與觀眾之間產生互動。就好像電影一樣,公共藝術的內容可以是商業的或純粹藝術的。而且,無論用什麼類型的媒體來表現,只要內容是好的或有趣的,每個人都會去看。

 

我認為,公共藝術和畫廊之間的最大區別在於:公共藝術反映了一個藝術家對生活環境與社會的認知。如何讓藝術作品“以人為本”,以及,如何讓藝術品適用於公共環境之中是兩個最重要的創作考量。

 

2) Sidewalk Art的想法,是將一個“商店”或“店面”納入你的創作中。這個項目的場地對你的創作提供了什麼樣子的影響?

 

答:作為一個住在美國超過15年的中國人來說,唐人街正是一個對我有歸屬感的地方——中餐館、漢字招牌 、髒亂和擁擠的街道...這是一個充滿了“中國人的刻板印象”的環境。會讓我感到想做點可以吸引我的同胞目光的東西,以及,也想讓其他所有非中國遊客感興趣或覺得突破了“中國人的藝術”的刻板形象的、有趣的作品。

 

我發現我的“金屬之道”系列很適合這個項目。這些“字狀雕塑”只採用了中國草書和書法的精神,並不代表任何實際的中文字符(可能有些雕塑會巧合地與實際的字符類似。)。我打算提供當地華人觀眾一種新的方式來重新思考我們每天一直在使用的書面語言。希望中國觀眾不要嘗試“閱讀”,而是“品味”我的作品,將它當作是雕塑或某種形式的藝術表現來觀賞,而不是書法。

 

對於任何不懂中文的觀眾,這些雕塑對他們來說只是純粹的符號,他們可以因為沒有這層字意上的包袱而能單純地享受這些形同漢字的作品,並勾起他們對於中國文字符號的原始印象及再生的觀點。

 

3)商店通常給人一種消費主義的感覺,你對觀眾在消費藝術而非產品這方面有什麼想法?

 

答:作為一個需要出售自己的藝術作品維生與維持創作的藝術家來說,我常常需要思考這樣的問題,像是:“我賣的是什麼?” “怎麼賣?” “什麼類型的人會喜歡收集(買)?”總是有這樣的問題在我的創作背後。Art-In-Storefront這樣的項目確實讓我有機會重新思考這些問題。

 

藝術品需要得到曝光,讓觀眾看到並且認同它的存在與價值,這樣的概念,就像一件產品需要鋪在店面前,以獲得消費者的認識及接受一樣。許多藝術家多以為,畫廊或博物館是唯一展示藝術品的地方。事實上,“替代空間”讓藝術的展示方式出現了很大的變化,如互聯網、咖啡廳、辦公樓和商業店面都為藝術家提供了廣泛的曝光選擇。藝術收藏家或藝術愛好者,也都是從藝術家所提供的各種展覽中得到了願意購買藝術品的靈感的。

 

4)在這個項目中有一定的挑戰和障礙。例如說,店面的間裡的門、窗造成屏障、光線不足等問題。你是如何克服這些挑戰的?是否使用這些條件作為你設計中的一部分?

 

答:我認為,把裝置藝術放在實際店鋪裡最大的挑戰是:改進現有的場景,以及,如何使原作合適於這個環境當中。裝置藝術需要“因地置宜”,因此,我不能只是把我現有的作品“擺放”在這樣的空間裡就算完成。

 

在這個店面裡存在著一些問題和局限性,譬如說:櫥窗上有塗鴉、室內因店面關閉而沒有電源提供照明,只能靠自然光,還有,店鋪內部有一巨大空間等待清理與重新裝修。而且,由於我們不開門讓觀眾進來觀看,因此實際上只有一個“門面”需要作出安裝展示。而那些不需要用到的其餘空間則將成為這個裝置作品中同時需要解決的一個部份。

 

再拿玻璃上的塗鴉為例,當我發現根本沒有辦法清除這些窗上的塗鴉時,我便決定把我的作品與其“共存”,接受塗鴉成為作品的一部分。也因此我將店面內用大片紅布掩蓋幾乎一大半,讓窗上的塗鴉可以在玻璃上顯得更清楚,並且同時將店面內的書法雕塑與外頭的塗鴉作了區隔。這麼一來反倒可以讓我的觀眾對櫥窗內有什麼東西更加好奇,使他們能更專注於觀看在櫥窗內的作品。

 

公共藝術不應該只是一種拿藝術品來對環境所作的裝飾。藝術家有責任讓自己的藝術品在特定的展出環境下帶給觀眾合乎邏輯的感覺。

 

5)我看到許多行人在你安裝作品的時候凝視著你所製作的櫥窗。你希望你的作品怎麼跟你的觀眾互動?

 

答:我希望觀眾們停下腳步、欣賞我的作品,或許,進而與身邊的同伴或者朋友們討論。當然,我更希望人們每次經過此地時都會想起來看上一眼,希望這件作品提醒他們生活中的某些事物或這片刻,或讓他們對某些事物有所思考。這就是“公共藝術”給一個創作者所帶來的意義,它需要有人關注。需要觀賞者透過藝術家這樣的行動接受某種刺激或影響。

 

在店面安裝雕塑的過程當中,我發現到一個有趣的事實,就是許多路經的華人會在櫥窗前指指點點,試圖從我的作品中分辨是哪個漢字。或許有這麼一天,哪位觀眾可以從我這些隨興而作的符號雕塑中讀出一副對聯或一首詩來也說不定。

 

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Comment by 高则希 on May 25, 2011 at 2:25pm

"Public Art", Street Art and Environmental Art were at one time a popular happening in big cites. Take for an example, East Village in New York City in the late 70s where street artists were so active that the city government banned the art movement, street graffiti was since outlawed. These days artists cannot express in public spaces unless they are able to obtain a permit. To install your project in a privately owned storefront is a good idea.

 

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