Posted on 9/24/2007 by Amy Fung
As a collaborative exercise between muralist Ian Mulder, graffiti artist Clayton Lowe and iHuman (along with the help and coordinative efforts of Andrea Lefebvre and Mike Debruin), State of the Art will wrap up on October 6th as the winner of their design contest will realize their design on the south wall of the new iHuman building on 102A Avenue and 95 St.
As two workshops held over two September weekends, the culmination of the activities ended with a disappointing panel discussion on "State of the Art" between iHUman ED Wallis Kendal, outgoing councillor Michael Phair, Vue Weekly News Editor Ross Moroz, Clayton Lowe, and another fellow graffiti artist who was well-versed in the Brazilian graffiti scene.
I say disappointing because:
a) The panel was imbalanced. If we are to talk about public art in Edmonton, it would only be appropriate to have the new Public Art Director, Kristy Trinier, on site. From the existing Art and Design in Public Places, any one of the participating artists or Linda Wedman herself should have been present as the talk ended up being highly skewered. As there was an obvious issue with the quality of public art on display in our city, talking with the people who put it there (instead of talking about them) would have helped.
b) Talking about doing graffiti often came across as redundant. Graffiti happens. The paradox of these street artists asking for public sanctioned space to do their work, at the same time bemoaning commisioned public art works, seems at best, trite. I do believe graffiti safe zones would benefit the city in various ways, but I also believe first and foremost that the graffiti (along with the public art) in this city has to get better. We can have all the space we want for art, but at the end of the day, it should be thoughtful and challenging art for the public to view. As the lecture about Brazilian graffiti even stated, the aesthetic here hasn't developed and for a transient medium like graffiti, a lack of studio space and community is not to blame.
c) Kendal, who was first to speak, set the tone with a brash statement saying that there is a simple solution to improving public art. There are never simple solutions and the tone set from that overstatement resulted in many more off-the-cuff remarks that did not progress 'the state of the art', but let it continue to fester in a 'us' versus 'them' mentality that only exists so long as we continue to manifest it aloud.
A more balanced and thoughtful discussion is certainly welcome in your comments.