Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP NUMBER: Karen Elaine Spencer’s measures and limits

From October 11-20, Art in Odd Places will be taking over 14th Street for their 2013 festival.  With the theme of NUMBER, the artists this year will present work exploring just that: how they define us, crowd us, and challenge us.  At this year’s festival, Karen Elaine Spencer will be exploring measure and limits with her work.

Spencer’s works generally question the role of the artist and the structures, both physical and abstract, which govern society.  Since 2008 she has been active in a postcard and web-based project entitled, “Transient Traces,” where she steals other people’s words and sends them to public figures and politicians.  She also has a current project, “hey! mike,” which is a multifaceted conversation with NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg; she uses this project to question the ideas and systems of philanthropy as “no one gets rich alone.”

_MG_3827_Photo G.L'Heureux

Image courtesy of artist.

Recently, AiOP was able to sit down with Spencer and get some insight into her upcoming work for the festival:

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the kinds of work that you do?

I am an artist based in Montréal, Québec. I perform, curate, write and have a studio-based practice. I suck at writing about what I do, so this is lifted from Daniel Fiset talking about my work: Spencer … question(s) the artist’s role in society and our relationship with the transitory, the city, the habitat, citizenship, power structures, the established order, and politics.


Image courtesy of artist.

What attracted you to this year’s AiOP festival?

Radhika Subramaniam! (I met Radhika through the program at iscp in NYC just last year)

How are you interpreting the theme number

I am approaching the theme number in a traditional manner as a term denoting measurement. However, the “too much” of the sign points to a subjective relationship of excess.


Image courtesy of artist.

What excites you about the prospect of presenting this work?

Working the length of 14th street!  Moving from the high line, to the Salvation Army, the YMCA, and Union Square to end up at the Stuyvesant development.

Was there any specific number that spoke out to you when formulating your work? Why?

I was “inspired” (inspired may not be the right word here) by senator Joe McCarthy’s speech at the republic national convention of 1953 where he says, “one communist on the faculty of one university is one communist too many…” This speech made me think about the idea of limits, and how limits are quite malleable and subject to who is articulating them and who they serve.


Image courtesy of Artist.

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  1. […] the artchetypal role of the “village idiot” or simpleton. Thanks to AiOP Number fellow artist Karen Elaine Spencer for that insight! We had a great conversation and email dialogue about how the Village Idiot used […]