And so life is reckoned as nothing. Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war. “If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been.” And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object: the object is not important.
-Viktor Shklovsky, Art as Technique (1917)
In April 2012, Endicott College hosted, Art in Odd Places on its scenic oceanfront Beverly, MA campus. AiOP founder and executive director Ed Woodham curated the show and stayed in residence at Endicott, giving a series of workshops, lectures, and class visits. While Art in Odd Places is well established on the New York cultural calendar, each October turning the length of 14th street in Manhattan into an open air gallery and performance space, this was the first time the event had taken place on a college campus. The aim was to encourage students, faculty, staff, and the greater local community to interact with their environment and each other in thoughtful and thought provoking ways; to disrupt the deadening habits of routine, reveal unnoticed spaces and patterns, and foster a sense of appreciation of the privilege of place. Guy DeBord’s term for this interaction of physical and human context was psychogeography, and for 3 springtime weeks, Endicott College was the site of this Situationist experiment.
This project considered the entire Endicott campus and community a canvas for the creative interventions of the participants, provoking and engaging the community across disciplines, spaces, and social groups. From its inception, Art in Odd Places has explored communication in urban public spaces, using art as a medium for social interaction. Bringing AiOP to a private college in suburban Beverly, Massachusetts at first seemed to be counter intuitive, if not ironic. While Mr. Woodham’s work fit well with the mission of Endicott College to promote civic and community engagement, critical thinking, applied learning, and lives open to reinterpretation and change, the transposition of the public AiOP concept to the hybrid public/private space of a college campus presented certain challenges as well as opportunities.
Endicott is a private institution, yet, like shopping malls, private parks, coffee shops, and skate parks, it functions as a simulacrum of a public space. For the students, it becomes home and community, instilled with a strong sense of pride, ownership and entitlement, yet without the full responsibilities of citizenship. For the surrounding community, Endicott College is a welcoming and generous, if sometimes boisterous, neighbor, providing cultural, educational and civic opportunities and resources, yet still not fully integrated in the townscape. Given the privatization and securitization of public space over the past 30 years, and especially since 9/11, asserting the public function of private and hybrid spaces becomes a necessary negotiation. As AiOP continues to evolve and franchise in increasingly diverse locations – with interventions this year in Saint Petersburg Russia; the CAA conference in Los Angeles; and the US pavilion at the 2012 Venice Biennale for architecture and urban design, – the specific civic and cultural context will play an increasingly forward role in the artistic exploration of the shifting meaning of the public realm.
The show attracted students and faculty from Endicott, the nearby Montserrat College of Art, local public schools, and local artists (though one participant drove from Connecticut to install his piece). The majority of participants were students, and the quality and intent of the work overall reflected a somewhat less integrated and more self-reflective positioning. Unlike the urbane, ironic, and suggestive character of the 14th street festival, some of the Endicott works took on an imperative tone, exhorting, rather than evoking responses from peers and passers-by. This self-reflexivity was exacerbated by the tranquil, well-groomed character of the College environment. Compared to the teeming palimpsest of sight, sound and smell of lower Manhattan, the tranquility of the campus tended to highlight the works themselves, rather than their insinuation into an already dense and teeming panorama. In some cases, the artists deliberately integrated organic elements and themes into their work, inviting passers-by from the well traveled pathways to the unnoticed spaces, evoking and invoking the beauty and calm of the environment and, in some cases, disappearing into it entirely.
Despite the lack of density and diversity on campus, the engrossing distractions of digital media devices, and the surprisingly obliviousness of many residents to the beauty and variety of the oceanfront venue, the college and surrounding community warmly and enthusiastically supported the project. an excitement and interest in encountering art in odd places and through it, new ways of appreciating and exploring a sense of place and each other. As Shklovsky suggests above, art is above all a technique for revealing the beauty and significance of objects and actions, recognizing and rehabilitating unnoticed places, chance encounters, and missed opportunities, and recovering the “sensation of life.” AiOP appreciates the opportunity to practice this aesthetic at the Endicott College, and Endicott is proud to be an Odd Place.Ed Woodham and Michael Kilburn Co-curators of Art in Odd Places, Endicott College May, 2012
This exhibit is made possible from an Endicott College Community of Learners grant.
About Endicott College
Endicott College is committed to providing an educational experience that will encourage students to view the concept of diversity from a variety of perspectives in order to foster understanding and ultimately greater respect and acceptance among individuals. Embracing diversity means understanding and respecting our individual differences, which includes the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, differing abilities (e.g., physical, emotional, and cognitive), religious and political beliefs. Central to the exploration of the differences and similarities among individuals is the need to offer a safe, positive, and supportive environment. Website: www.edicott.edu; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org