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Gentrification & Public Art Discussion

These projects have been around for several years and had motivated creation of new alternative spaces. Now there exist around twenty to twenty-five alternative spaces, and what we're seeing with this development is that these alternative spaces have blended in with the communities and with it's own localities, and have also contributed to the development of the culture of these communities.

Art Contracts & Artist's Rights

We constantly, in this part of the world, complain that there is no [art]market. I think that's good because when it comes it won't be exactly what we have imagined.
Dan & Lia Perjovschi

Art Contracts & Artist's Rights - Discussion

As a photographer speaking in terms of photography - these days, it is kind of funny having this conversation because ...


Park Chaneung Interview

But I don't want Seoksu to be a popular place. I don't want Seoksu to be gentrified. I want it to develop slowly, step by step, and mix the past and the future. I don't invite artists to make it more expensive. My dream is to convert the central space of the market into a place where the citizens can come and enjoy arts, and make a harmonious relationship among citizens and artists.(Read...)

Woon-Gi Min Interview

And I want to make people here realize what is the real situation. And also I want to make the government aware of what are the results of their actions are.(Read...)

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This topic has been explored trough the text in relation to the patterns recognized as present in a variety of local contexts. Similar practices can be found in many examples of both the western cultures and eastern. However there are particular and specific conditions and related problems that are specific to their localities. Both in order to draw the connections between these localities and to relate them to the practices that spread across national and local borders we have conducted two interviews. The interviews were done with directors of two alternative art spaces in the wider Seoul metropolitan area, that deal with the urban redevelopment projects as well as they try to act artistically in public space. It has been our wish to do more interviews with other alternative art spaces directors in Korea but unfortunately due to the limited time spent here we were forced to limit our project to just two. The discussion that had followed after the reading of the text Gentrification & Public Art has also been concentrated to a discussion about the local context, and in this way the text has been used simply as a trigger to initiate this discussion and has not been the subject of the debate.

Gentrification & Public Art

Political subversion or a beutification tool?

Our last forum was focused on art contracts regulating artist's rights and among other their financial income. We would like to start this forum with a short introduction of funding of visual arts. After that we will continue with what is called public art and its role in the city's development, as well as make an attempt to describe the relations of subjects and architecture.
In contemporary context art is essentially funded in two ways - through public funding and private funding. It can be said that, until recently, the prevailing opinion in the non-communist/socialist countries was that the state funding of art is more restrictive towards' free expression. What was usually used as an argument here is the state of art in Communist countries, as for instance in the USSR. We are talking, of course, about the state - impelled art known as Socialist realism. Private funding can also support art in many ways (through purchase, commissions, prizes from the side of individuals or companies) some of which are very similar to those of government funding.
The introduction of state funding in the USA and the ideological background of this act could perhaps make a good starting point for this discussion. The largest art program ever undertaken by the United States federal government was issued after the introduction of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, in the country that, until then, was less eager to support arts than the majority of the developed countries in the World. Several programs were set up, which were mostly commissioning paintings and sculpture for decoration of government buildings; most of them initiated and focused on employment and democratization aimed at supporting and boosting American art, in order to strengthen national identity at the time of an international economic crisis and the outspread of socialist ideas in Europe and Russia. "To the educated New Dealer, who was no philistine, the fine arts went hand in hand with a strong economy, the two together creating a distinctly American culture."[1]
The importance of art as a signi∫cant agent in promotion of national identity and capitalist values was further developed after the Second World War. In the 1960s, in the midst of the Cold War propaganda, this engagement shifted in a unprecedented direction. As a reaction to the strengthening Soviet influence United States started to promote arts and artists as agents of a democratic and free society. Free expression in arts became a way of branding government policy and, among other things, it was stressed that the comity that was to be established to govern these tasks should not allow any specific style to emerge as a consequence. The discourse used to stress this freedom was very much in line with the discourse used by Clement Greenberg when he spoke of disinterested art as the supreme value art must strive for: "The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us."[2] This puts art in a position of an agent obviously influenced by the politics (the argument used for justifying governmental interference into art was that art is inescapably influenced by the politics), but disinterested to promote any specific agenda.This contradiction is put forth in Kennedy's statement: "If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him"[3] and than he goes on defining a desirable value system: "In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the sphere of polemics and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society - in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth the artist best serves his nation." [4] So art, in order to be viewed as free is even invited to be critical, but of course within a desirable value system; the opposite one to the value system in the USSR. This new governmental interest in art, was of course ready to ∫nancially stimulate it. Secretary of Labor under Kennedy's administration, Arthur Goldberg, after trying to resolve a Metropolitan Opera strike, which threatened to cancel the upcoming season, has argued that
"financial strains on institutions [made] their exclusive dependence on private philanthropy impractical. In response to this crisis, he proposed a six - point partnership among the public, traditional benefactors, private corporations, labor, local government, and the federal government, all working to provide a stable, continuing basis of financial support. He recommended grants for local cultural facilities, tax incentives to encourage private donations, and the establishment of a federal advisory council to study future six - point cooperation."[5] The newly formed advisory council has made, but initially omitted a suggestion, that was in the later administration implemented and which read: "A modest portion of the cost of each new Federal office building, should not exceed one percent of the total expense, shall be allocated for the purchase of fine arts to be incorporated in the general design."[6] A similar concept has been implemented in what is now required of private companies. Other than being funded by the state funds for culture, art is, like in some European states such as Great Britain, funded by private companies that are impelled by the state to install some public art as their duty towards society - when they are building for profit venues. The space they have thereby created is principally called public, but it can only be used in a way prescribed by the ones who developed it.
So as a conclusion we can stress that Kennedy's administration project of countering totalitarian regimes with free art has, besides promoting Abstract Expressionism (as a part of its gallery - related endeavors), continued to promote implementation of art in everyday life by stimulating public art projects which was, with a slight shift of what was expected of arts to do, a continuation of the programs initiated by the New Deal.

Public art & the museum

It is a general presumption that art practiced outside of the museum or a gallery has a better chance of making significant effect then art situated in a gallery space pejoratively addressed as a white cube. In modernism artists paid a lot of attention to the making of new art, and what was meant by it was for art to be able to address the new - society, time etc. (new with all its ideological implications) the art also had to be new. After all, the modernist utopian project both in architecture, politics or visual arts, as in many other fields had been about replacing the old with the new. In post-modern world this term has been largely criticized as something overcame, as a part of art - history discourse that treats art as the material of the evolutionary narratives of art history and history. The museum as such did not lose its negative attributes, and art has continued to make attempts to emancipate itself from the confines of the art context by entering the public sphere. Public art has been seen as live art, merged into life. In attempt to fulfill this wish to create truthful, live art, it is necessary to answer the following question; when and under which circumstances does art appear alive instead of dead? Boris Groys [7] answers in his essay On New saying that art should be alive is essentially the same claim that modernism took, replacing the attribute new with that of alive. He goes on to say that the reason artists want this in the first place is to satisfy the inherent accumulative logics of the museum - same reason modernist artists made attempts to create new.
The irony of emancipatory project of contemporary art, and specifically the project of abandoning the museum which ephemeral forms of public art had been working on, is that this art is in need of the museum context even more than the traditional forms of art were. Since contemporary art does not need to have any visual difference from other everyday objects it needs the art context to designate it as such. And if that art fails to reach art - context it will effectively fail to exist as art. Artists often answer to this by saying that they don't care whether you call it art or not, but by saying this they ignore the most important legacy of the 20th century art's the claim that everything can be art as long as there is an artist to designate it as such. In fact, the act of labeling objects or actions as art is the only thing that legitimizes them as artists. Camiel van Winkel [8] says that the art context or the rhetoric of the museum has nothing to do with the space or a building, so he articulates a kind of virtual museum that every artwork places itself within, virtual museum comprised of ideas, texts, theories and other artworks that constitute the art discourse. By exiting the museum as a building, art does not exit the sphere of art context - the virtual museum. He says an artwork in the public space, without being presented as such, would fail to be recognized by a passerby. The reality as an infinite space romanticized by the artist, is designated as such by the act of looking from within the museum. As Camiel van Winkel claims that public art needs the museum to be recognized as such, Groys claims that reality/life itself is recognized as such in comparison to the museum, library etc. "What we call life is that which has not yet been appropriated by the museum collection."[9] Our image of reality is influenced by what we know about the museum.
However, the change of place is not irrelevant and it does provide an artist with the whole new set of tools to address different concepts and attain different political positions. For example, in the 70s women artists in London started to gather in alternative spaces to be able to set their position against the male dominated art scene of the famous London galleries. Among other spaces they started to exhibit in private spaces of private homes. In this way they were able to address both the history of the duality of private and public space as the one of women and men respectively, as well as address the official gallery scene as not inclusive towards women. So, even though we often think of the public space as a political space, this example shows how there is inherent politics in private space as well.

Public space & addressing the public space

Linked to the expansion of technology, as well as to micro movements of global capital, both the notion of the site as well as relationships and identities are redefined. Subject and location are now independent of national borders, disrupted in their singularities and amplified as multiple communications trough dislocated networks and narratives, yet they are also grounded in locality. The existence of social sites on the Internet for example helps us understand the site within the contemporary transurban [10] context as that of overlapping of decentralized networks and relationships.
By their entrance into architecture bodies fulfill their role (use), but also violate the ordered space of the architectural plan thus they are always suspects in the architecture. To move from use to resistance is to move from specialized to the everyday. [11] . This move starts the conversation that makes apparent the power of architecture as well as the power of the body. There is an inherent subversive connotation in acting within the public space in the time of it's shrinking by its extensive privatization.
In the case of street graffiti for example the body exerts its power of transgressing the boundaries set by architecture. Spoiling the architecture by transgressing the boundaries set by the public space authorities graffiti use the city as a page upon which it unfolds its coded language, superimposing it's effects of inclusion and exclusion (those that understand the codes used and those that do not) on top of inclusions and exclusions performed by the architecture.

Gentrification: efficiency + beautification
and the potential of art

By detaching the urban structure as a separate entity to social life, governments and private cooperations tend to prescribe the desirable utilization of public spaces. Gentrification is a term for a process in which redevelopment is justified by arguments that are combining the issues of utility and beautification. [12] It is said that, in order to make the city more livable it is necessary to redevelop certain areas of the city. The planning of contemporary urbanism leaves little space for vacancy. In the flow of the capital across the spaces, space is treated and understood in terms of efficiency of creating capital. Those few vacant spaces left, which are usually the spaces inhabited by lower income social strata, as well as that of ethnic minorities, are thus viewed upon from the perspective of the global business of the transurban life as surplus spaces, or spaces of deficiency. The main thesis of the urban redevelopment projects in this regard is that these areas are going to attain higher efficiency trough the projects of redevelopment. What they often fail to say is that the majority of residents that occupy these areas before the redevelopment will not be able to enjoy the fruits of the higher efficiency attained by the redevelopment. The redevelopment projects are an apparent way in which the architecture presents itself as the tool for division of power across the urban space. Other than redevelopment of the visual layout of the site (which is referred to as beautification) the social strata of the certain area is replaced with wealthier residents or office buildings which, in the first place, were put there to raise the economic potency of the place. This beautification is usually accompanied with introduction of a certain kind of public art which is nominally said to be of use to the general public in creating open public space. Artists are invited to participate in the urban developments power - to help use their visual competence to make the urban space more livable and to make people aware of their surroundings. Many contemporary cities invite artists to make public projects to create the identity of the city, and artists are expected to apply their unconventional approaches to solve the spatial problems of the urban sites and improve the urban experience.
This kind of redevelopment that in reality serves to those in power is justified with discourse that claims these changes are beneficial for a general population with minor unavoidable problems any change would produce. Emphasizing the visual quality as the one which ensures the quality of life, public art is often used to justify, or conceal the political failure of the government to express the public interest. It is not very clear if artists in fact do have special skills for these tasks.
It seems Camiel von Winkel claims that they do not. Explaining this with the statement that contemporary art gave up on any form of expertise in order to free itself from specialized skill or métier and that art can in fact be anything (statement contemporary practice surely affirms) providing that the artist labels something as art. Therefore we cannot at the same time claim a certain form of expertise by the artist.
WochenKlausur artist group work under the approach that artist competence in finding solutions, traditionally utilized for shaping materials can just as well be applied in all areas of society; ecology, education and city planning. And they state the opposite while not arguing with the claim of artists as non - experts, essentially claiming that what differentiates the artist from other specialists and thus provides them with special skills is the fact of not being appropriated by the highly specialized society. By not being specialized or not having specialized skills they claim that artists can in fact approach these problems in an unconventional manner. However the practice of the WochenKlausur group is far from being the kind of public art Camiel von Winkel had in mind in his criticism.

[1] Marlene Park and Gerald E. Markowitz: New Deal for Public Art in Public Art: Content, Context and Controversy edited by Harriet F. Senie and Sally Webster

[2] John F. Kennedy speech excerpts in John Wetenhall Camelot's Legacy to Public Art: Aesthetic ideology in the New Frontier published in Critical Issues in Public Art: Content, Context and Controversy edited by Harriet F. Senie and Sally Webster

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] John Wetenhall Camelot's Legacy to Public Art: Aesthetic ideology in the New Frontier published in Critical Issues in Public Art: Content, Context and Controversy edited by Harriet F. Senie and Sally Webster

[6] Ibid.

[7] Boris Groys, O Novome (On New) Učiniti stvari vidljivima: Strategije suvremene umjetnosti (To Make Things Visible: Strategies of Contemporary Art), Zagreb, Muzej suvremene umjetnosti (Museum of Contemporary Art), 2006.

[8] Camiel van Winkel Art in Public Space in Conventions in Contemporary Art: Lectures and Debates, Witte de With, 2001.

[9] Boris Groys, O Novome (On New)

[10] Transurbanism is a shift from material city to the flow of immaterial information, from tradition, location to the greater flows of globalization; as defined by Brandon Labelle in Split Space: Practice of Transurban Life from Surface Tension: Problematics of Site edited by Ken Ehrlich & Brandon LaBelle, Errant Bodies Press, 2003

[11] Everyday life is a sociological subject that necessarily exceeds classification. It is both what is left when we exclude specific structured, specialized activities by means of analyses, as well as their sum. It is what is left over as well as all activities.

[12] Rosalyn Deutsche Uneven Development: Public Art in New York City, October, Vol. 47 (Winter, 1988), The MIT Press

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