Know your audience

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For artists who work in a studio/gallery based practice there isn’t much concern regarding who is looking at the work. You create your paintings/sculptures/new media/whatever and then find the audience.

Not so with public art. It is important that you consider when you are developing the project – who is your audience. Both who are you trying to attract and who will you encounter based purely on the location you chose. Creating a work in the Financial District in Manhattan will be drastically different from creating a project in Spring Creek Brooklyn, which is also drastically different from creating a work in the suburbs of Minneapolis.

It gets back to knowing your own work – what is the message that you are creating in the work – and knowing the location well. Imagine the dialogue which your work might create and ensure that the message that you are trying to deliver is well embodied in the work.

Public art also requires that you understand when to be sensitive to the audience in a location and when to be provocative or controversial. And just who you are going to be encountering along the way. If you think your work might not be well received (because it might be controversial) by some of the people in your selected location, then have a viable argument for why the work is important in that location at that time.

When doing public art (especially temporal, ephemeral, performative) there are a couple of other things to consider with regards to your audience, 1) how you communicate with them about the work and 2) how you might extend or prolong the reach of your work. I will address these issues in upcoming posts.

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