Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

“Reflect:” The Art in Odd Places Class from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro stages their own festival

On December 4th, Sheryl Oring’s master class on Art in Odd Places put on their own AiOP festival with the theme, “Reflect,” in downtown Greensboro.  Below, each student from the class wrote about their projects, their experiences presenting their works, and what they learned through their execution, along with their unique challenges and unexpected outcomes.  You can also read about the experiences they had interacting with past AiOP artists both in Greensboro and at the 2015 festival in NYC here and here.

Paula Damasceno: Enlightenment

My project “Enlightenment,” was executed as planned: subtly and simply. The idea was to make use of language to modify and subvert the signification of a (fake) light bulb, hung in trees in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, during the Festival of Lights. The work aimed to function as a reflective piece on the very existence of the festival and on art. The modified signification of the light bulb aims to modify and subvert language. The bulb then is something else: it could even be, but not reduced to, art. This way, language and object are each, half of a code that makes a system completed only by the viewer.

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Photo by Paula Damasceno

As soon as I arrived in downtown, I set my mind to locating the right spot where to hang the bulbs. I followed a criteria that took into consideration spaces and trees that matched the same level of people’s eyes, spaces not too much occupied by big vendors or big entertainment machines, and therefore would be spots where people could almost accidentally notice the bulbs. With the help of my partner Graham Holt, we hung five bulbs along Elm Street. Most of the time I noticed that people passed by the bulbs without noticing them, but I could not say how much of this is absolute since I just h spent ten minutes or so observing each of them. I saw people interacting with the bulbs on three occasions: the first one was a group of friends walking by the first block of South Elm St. They noticed the bulb as one of them hit the bulb with his head, read the words written, looked at each other and kept walking; the second one was a young man that decided to take a couple of pictures of the bulb; and the third was an online post made by a bookstore owner saying “thanks for whoever left us “not art” last night.”

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Photo by Paula Damesceno

I left all the bulbs there as signs that now belong to the public space, to whoever wants to have it or to whoever needs to put it down.

 

Jiyoung Park: Byung-poong

When I conceived my project with the theme of reflect, the very first thing came to my mind was reflecting the past. I had continually thought about my circumstances, growth, and future since I came to America, so it was impossible to find another theme that I would be passionate enough to carry on. I was worried at the beginning if it would be viewed as a cliché theme; however, the concern was easily solved after my AiOP experience in New York. The participants of AiOP succeeded in not dealing with cliché subjects by knowing very well what they are handling in terms of a theme and conveying their message in visually appealing forms. First, I studied the word, “reflect.” By embodying the many meanings of the word, I redefined “reflect” as showing an image of representation in a faithful way by throwing it back without absorbing it.

My project, Byung-poong, is a reinterpretation of a Korean traditional ritual based on the new definition of “reflect.” Byung-poong is a Korean folding screen for decoration and windbreak purposes. It is also used in a Korean traditional memorial ceremony honoring the participants’ ancestors. In the past, the body of the deceased was placed on the opposite side of the folding screen, and the screen was utilized as a boundary between the world of the living and dead. Usually a poem passed down through generations is written on the screen to help the participants to reflect on their lives and follow the message of the poem. The main purposes of the project were reflecting my growth from a child in Korea who knew little of the world to a more mature foreigner in America with a strong mindset; expressing the gratitude to the ancestors who made possible the existence of the artist; and showing people a different cultural way to reflect people’s lives.

The process of decorating the folding screen was the crucial part of the project, because it was an act of reflecting. I am an introverted person, so the major concern of my project was how I would attract public attention. However, I started to believe after my experience assisting Edith Raw that throwing one’s heart of passion into a project would make an artist brave. Therefore, I spent much time on the project enough to feel confident and passionate, and it really made me excited to display my work on the street. It was great to see works of mine and my classmates’ adding aesthetic curiosity in the street of Greensboro downtown. Many people walked past by my artwork and showed interest in the work. I am satisfied with the fact that I displayed my own project in the public space for the first time. This project will be the starting of my street art career by giving me confidence and possibility to display my art in public space.

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Photo by Jiyoung Park

 

Robin Holde: {time} Travel Agent

We thought about and discussed our projects for months, but for a long time there were no tangible things to see or touch past my pile of postcards that I’ve had for years. Then suddenly, it was the first week of December and it was almost time for it all to come together and I was still having a hard time imaging what it would be like. Then in late afternoon on December 4, I’m carrying my table and supplies down Elm Street to my location in downtown Greensboro to set up and I get extremely nervous. What would people say? Would they want to participate? Will people think I’m silly dressed like a flight attendant? Well, I set up, got an encouraging word from Sheryl and opened my {time} travel agency to the public.

Of course I had nothing to worry about, people were curious and so excited to hear about what my class was doing. People loved the idea of being able to write postcards to their future selves and that one day in January, their own postcard will surprise them in their mailbox, taking them back to that moment in time where they wrote it. While on their card they might have only wrote a sentence or two, I have no doubt that when it comes their minds will be flooded remembering everything that happened around December 4, 2015, like the Christmas lights all around, children laughing, and one crazy 20-something dressed as a flight attendant.

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Photo by Todd Turner

 

Laura Melrose: Women have…

Women have… is all about appreciating the past while fighting for the future. I choose to stand in the middle of a stream of people dressed as a suffragette in hopes that both inspiration and conversation would occur as people saw me. Many seemed to understand that I was a suffragette almost immediately and would say things like “fight for the future” or “Yes, go women”. Some came up and told me stories of grandparents or great grandparent who fought for their rights in the past. Some asked me what I was doing. Only once did I receive resistance or denial that women don’t have equal rights. It was a very encouraging experience and it was interesting to compare the relations and conversations that occurred in comparison to the ones I saw for Laura Mylott Manning’s and LuLu LoLo’s which shared some similarities in topic and production to mine. I also brought up a similar topic of women’s rights or the fight for rights being overlooked today such as LuLu’s. Overall I really enjoyed this project and it is an experience I will cherish. I hope to do more work such as this in the future as I really think I made an impact on people, especially kids, as the most frequent response I saw was parents taking the time to explain to their kids what I stood for and that in the future they will need to stand up for what they know is right.

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Photo by Jiyoung Park

 

Todd Turner: Sinking Ships

Once we collectively decided on the theme “Reflect”, I chose to focus my efforts on fabricating a work that would utilize the audible interactions of the public. I assembled an enclosure that featured an oversized ear. Within the hole of the ear, I placed a condenser microphone. This enclosure was placed on the sidewalk in a relatively high traffic area. I ran the cable from the microphone up to the fire escape of the building where the signal was amplified and projected out into the busiest intersection in downtown Greensboro. I utilized the symbolism of an oversized mouth to help conceal the standing speaker. Thus, whenever individuals would pass by the microphone, their conversations, or any audible noised for that matter, were magnified and broadcasted out amongst the public. I couldn’t help but find a very distinct parallel between my work and the work that I assisted Jabari Owens-Bailey with at AiOP in New York. His work focused on the willing confessions of the public. The key difference is that my confessions and interactions were captured and amplified without the consent of the participants. This added a sense of cultural voyeurism to this work. Ultimately, I feel as though the project was successful. However, I did learn that this project would be far more effective on a calmer evening with less commotion on the streets so that the amplification of the voices could be heard with much greater clarity.

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Photos by Todd Turner

 

Diego Vergara: Loitering In Public Spaces

For my Art In Odd Places / Lab project, I intervened in the frequency spectrum on South Elm Street. I built a small radio transmitter, designed by Tetsuo Kogawa, to transmit messages to a radio receiver that a friend was holding about 20 feet away from me. I asked my friend to act indifferent to sounds coming out of the radio receiver so that people walking by would question whether or not the messages were directed at them. This did not work very well on the first Friday of December, because of the loud sound created by entertainers and the masses whowere downtown for this holiday event. After attempting to create an intervention in an Art In Odd Places fashion, I realized how much work was needed to create works like the ones I saw on my trip to New York. My trip to Art In Odd Places gave a standard to set for my own work, in terms of performance and planning.

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The transmitter was hidden in the cup. Photo by Todd Turner

 

Amber Doniere: “The Story of US”

On December 4, 2015, I undertook the challenge of completing my first public art project entitled “The Story of US”. The project aims to have people reflect on life through the use of universal sayings and their connections to African American culture. To do so, I hand wrote phrases on upwards of 50 brightly colored sticky notes and stuck them in discrete but noticeable places throughout downtown Greensboro. I stuck them on bulletin boards, in newspapers, and within various stores. It was very heartwarming to see that some were taken by individual passersby and that some had been left for others to see. It felt as though each time I stuck a sticky note somewhere, I was giving a piece of my soul to whoever would happen upon it. I was amazed to see how simple yet effective an art project can be! This is definitely a project that I look forward to continuing to work on and display in the future.

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Photo by Amber Doniere

 

Alley Deese: Walking Stories

After going to New York I realized that I wanted to make my project personal to me because some of the projects that we saw they all had meaning. I decided to work on domestic violence awareness, a topic that my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, is also involved with. With this topic I realize that I have to be careful and not just put up statistics and expect to make an impact but also not to trigger anyone therefore I had to find a happy medium. On campus we host a big event every September known as the clothesline project. This event lasts a week and what happens is that people have the chance to come by anytime and write a their story or that of a friend or a loved one on a T-shirt. This allows people to let their dirty laundry air out. Alpha Chi Omega has been doing this for years and has kept every single shirt. During First Friday, 19 sorority members joined in an action in downtown Greensboro. My sisters really enjoyed doing it and want to make it an annual project. We had some people come up and take pictures of the project and we got featured in YES! Weekly. We received a lot positive reactions and managed to raise $25.00 for our philanthropy.

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Photo by Todd Turner

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