The ability to use public art as a form of expression is quite rare. Installations are often visual or have a tacit (or expressed) ‘do not touch’ policy – creating the idea of public without the opportunity for real interation. A few installations try to break this boundary – offering a platform for expression.
One that came via email is the Natureza em Risco, an installation at the Festival Internacional de Jardins de Ponte de Lima by Architect Lara Plácido and sculptor Sara Bento Botelho – who were kind enough to send me some pics of their work and a short quote: “…as we walk past it, will grow a “diary” of the garden, superimposing spontaneous and arbitrary records, productively artistic through the action of the wind on the rods with markers attached to their ends which will operate like a wind printer of the intervention of viewers ready to interact with them, thus creating a drawing of their journey….”
Last week, at the panel discussion here in Portland for ‘The Mayors’ Institute on City Design’, NEA Director of Design (and former Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia) Maurice Cox, mentioned the process of public involvement that created the Charlottesville Community Chalkboard set up as a public forum for expression. The chalkboard is erased once a week – and some of the great work is compiled at this site.
:: images via Preservation in Pink
Finally, no discussion would be complete (at least for me, with many family members as alumni) without a reference to the Free Expression Tunnel at North Carolina State University… “Clubs, fraternities, sororities, and other organizations often paint the tunnel to promote events and amateur artists paint to express themselves and to promote freedom of speech. A retaining wall just outside the tunnel’s south entrance is also open for free expression. The tunnel was open to free expression in the 1960s and was the university’s response to illegal graffiti.”
:: image via Wikipedia
All of these sites have (or probably will have) issues with inappropriate content being scrawled in public – which is part of the point and some of the challenge of free expression. The limits of what is ‘free’ is on debate and will cross the lines of common decency – making it a visible dialogue for everyone to see – and censorship is always an issue. Whereas some other ‘art’ can cross visible and clear lines of appropriateness and require removal by society – there’s always the ephemeral nature of chalk or the soothing ability to paint over walls – as an option for these public spaces. It’s up to the public how to use them.