my first post for gardenvisit, so i thought i’d pose a question thats been on my mind for a while. also it ties in neatly with Toms post below.
Is there too much public art in the landscape? reports say that there has been a massive boom in public art commisions in the UK over recent years, and I’ve applied for a few of them myself! so I’m playing devils advocate here, or being a hypocrite, whatever way you want to look at it.
all the same, it seems you can’t go anywhere now without there being some sanctioned artwork there to explain the place to you – telling you what you should be thinking and explaining how you should be feeling. isnt there room any more for ambiguity, or an individual respone. can’t a place just be a place?
the adlesburgh scallop (pictured) makes a good case study. a source of recent controversy, its detractors say there is nothing wrong with the artwork itself, but its location was beautiful..more beautiful without it. it is an unnecessary detraction.
the artist says that they dont understand the work – that it was created especially for that location. the insinuation is that as an artist, her response is more valid than everyone elses. more valid than the place itself which should serve as a setting for her work.
the council say it works because it has attracted more visitors to the site. nature on its own is boring, and hard to sell. who wants to be left with only their surroundings and their own thoughts? best to give them the ‘proper interpretation’ so they can get their thoughts in order. and this i think now is the real role of public art – an exercise in branding and marketing, a logo for the landscape
There is no doubt that the sculpture is overwhelmingly loved. Like many places of natural/or and created beauty the problem may be the unintended consequences of the high level of public interest and visitation to the site in what it seems would otherwise be a remote and somewhat contemplative locale. The following comment on the bbc site probably encapsulates the issue best (http://www.bbc.co.uk/suffolk/content/articles/2004/11/08/scallop_aldeburgh_feature.shtml);
Most of the comments about the Scallop are missing the point. It may be beautiful, but since when can an artist just choose to place they work in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? This gorgeous stretch of beach now has hoards of cars (I wonder if possible revenue from car park swayed the council at all?),people, burger vans in high season, even a guy selling kite surfing gear. It may be a fine work of art but it certainly does NOT ‘improve’ what was previously a beautiful, unspoilt spot and one of the few, we naively thought, that would not be affected by the constant ‘in-fill’ that can be seen in every little quiet corner of Aldeburgh.
This is the constant dichotomy of natural and cultural tourism….how many visitors are too few and how many are too many…for a place to retain its integrity? Perhaps over time the controversy will die down, visitor numbers will reduce and the sculpture will somehow become one with the landscape once again.
I suppose this controversy raises an interesting question about the siting of public art. Is the public [in their anticipated visitation numbers] considered part of the installation?
As a work of art, I like the Scallop. It reminds me of a book I have somewhere published by Shell Petroleum and tracing the scallop as a motif throughout the history of art.
But yes: the Turd on the Beach is just as much a hazard as the Turd in the Plaza ( http://www.gardenvisit.com/blog/2008/09/30/public-art-in-barking-town-square/ ). It can tame a wild place, like those terrible signs saying ‘Nature Reserve’ and ‘View Point’. Or worse: I remember seeing a tragic polar bear, half bald and sweating profusely, in Cairo Zoo.
Artist Olafur Eliasson is famous for his weather project installation at the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in 2004. He commented “It is commonly observed, when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm.”
Ironically, with global warming, what was once a national passtime has now become an international obsession! It is surprising how something seemingly so unimportant has a profound importance in all our lives.