Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Art of the MOOC: Merging Public Art and Experimental Education. My name is Pedro Lasch. And I'm Nato Thompson. In today's module, we're going to explore the relationship between public art and spatial politics. Public art has always been a great way to understand entire societies. It's through our definitions of the public that we define the relationship between the visible, the invisible, the national and the international, and all kinds of other things that matter to social groups. And just to say, it's a very difficult term to define if you break apart. Public, what is public? Art, what is art? But that said, public art, if you will, does in fact, the way in which we read through this says a lot about the societies in the world we are in. Some people think of social space, a lot of these play out in social space, however we may construct that. And sometimes, social space is harmonious and people are getting along. Sometimes, people have competing agendas, but whatever the agendas are in public place also reflect in the art themselves. From the needs of power, to the needs of contesting power, to different forms of power bashing up against each other in this thing we call public art. And that's kind of the lens we would like to read this through. So, it's kind of by definition a contested field, right? Yes. This idea of public art. Yeah, it is. So, perhaps, we can start with a case study on our first genre which we're describing as monuments. Let's go. Let's go. So, our first case study is a project from 1982 by the artist/architect Maya Lin. And it's the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which, in a basic sense, was a memorial to Vietnam veterans, obviously, that was in the ground in a V shape that had the names in alphabetical order of the 57,661 victims of the war. And the veterans basically could go in them. Now, that memorial which caused a giant set of debates, for a variety of reasons, because of course the Vietnam War is not exactly the most vainglorious war in American history, also had a lot of debate from Vietnam veterans who came and also wanted to contest it. So, a gentleman named Hart actually produced a memorial in reaction to that, which was three soldiers standing there kind of nobly, and then we find this kind of battle of memorials that took place in American society. Another kind of case study we can go into is also demonstrative of what might be one of the larger traditions, I mean it's tied to one these large traditions, called Percent for Art. And Percent for Art is basically where giant capital projects occur and a percent of that money goes to the funding of art. And so you see, in a large part of public art, history is basically these large sculptures that adorn private plazas. So, one example could be Jean Dubuffet's monument, The Standing Beast, from 1984, where the city basically took what was considered a very known, very sanctified artist and said, "Hey, let's make a sculpture of his." He called it a drawing that entered into space. And Chicago is full of these sculptures, right? Like there's a Picasso sculpture? Yes. All kinds of major artists, Calder of the time were commissioned these major artists. And it was a way to think through what the city is, and I know that we live in an age right now where people may look a little snarky at that, but if you can imagine, it was a way to bring these kind of modernist ideas into the living environment of a city. In fact, we can trace the history of these types of monuments from what would be the 19th century idea of the civic monument with a hero. Often white males who would be shown on a pedestal, to the modernist artwork like what Nato described, to the critique of that type of artwork that many of our contemporaries called plop art. So, plop art is used as a derogatory term to talk about this type of artwork. That being said, the idea also that you would plop it in space, that there's no relationship to the site, and also, too, that it would adorn some sort of space of power in the city, and to be permanent. I should also mention that. Often they were permanent artworks. Which is in itself something that later generations started to question, this whole idea of the permanence of art, right? To further show how contested these sites often are, we have a few case studies that highlight the contested nature of them. So, if you go back to the 19th century model of the civic monument with the heroes, we have the Vendome Column which famously was brought down by the very population of Paris. The Paris Commune decided that the states should not have put this sculpture up, so Courbet himself, the painter and anarchist, wrote this manifesto that said we should bring it down, and the sculpture was brought down. And there's beautiful images and engravings of people bringing it down with ropes. And so, this is a really iconic early example, but much later, Richard Serra was commissioned. A typical site of contestation isn't only the physical site, but the very structures and mechanisms that commissioned these works. So for example, Richard Serra's Tilted Arc work was commissioned for Federal Plaza, and it was commissioned entirely legitimately by a specialized art group. A panel of experts that said this is a great artist, we should commission a public art for him. He did the right thing. He made it. But then the people who used that site hated the artwork. They thought it disrupted their everyday life. They wanted it removed. Thousands of people signed a petition, and actually, that very commission had to say, "Well, if the public hates it, we have to do something about it." Eventually, it was removed, but Richard Serra started a legal case so it's become like a case study example for even law debates on public art. The work is no longer there, but because it was a site-specific work, not just a sculpture, Serra considers it destroyed even though it still exists dismantled somewhere. And just to say too, I just think it's important to also recognize that sometimes the public doesn't like art. And some people say, "Oh, Richard Serra's arts modernist piece, it's metal, it just kind of sits there, it's not really public-friendly." But the public can also hate public-friendly art. I don't think we always have to trust the public likes only good art. In fact, Serra himself said that art doesn't have to be pretty or likeable. Or friendly. Or it doesn't have to be democratic, even. Right. But of course, this is up for debate, whether public art should be democratic or not. As a last example, because it helps show how slippery these things can be, we have the idea of international conflict. So, Saddam Hussein's sculpture that was toppled during the early stage of the U.S. occupation, people wanted to represent that as like a genuine, spontaneous uprising of the Iraqi people against Saddam, but later, it was shown that it was highly staged, right? Exactly. So, these international conflicts are often really problematic. We shouldn't just immediately judge when a sculpture is removed or attacked. Who's behind it, et cetera, can often be a complicated matter in itself. And I have another example, which is the Cows on Parade, which is a kind of silly example because I don't know of actual any reasonable artists that like it. It's nice because it's a private-public artist triad that produces art in the cities. And basically, this started again in Chicago, but it was a simple project where there was these cows, the cow being the symbol of Chicago because the cows not only were in the stockyards, but it was the cow that kicked over the lantern that made the Great Chicago Fire. And the cow is basically put in various kinds of plazas: in front of a Starbucks, in front of Bank of America, in front of City Bank, in front of various kinds of corporate entities that allow this thing to be put in front of their building that then they commission an artist to paint the exterior. And the city goes wild. People go check it out. Now this thing is so popular. There's giraffe's on parade. There's ostriches on parade. In Mexico City, we have cactuses. Oh, you guys have cactus? Yeah, we get the cactus. It's also trained and untrained artists, right? So basically, anybody can propose to do a cow and then it gets accepted or rejected. And that also leads us to the idea of the so-called vernacular memorials or monuments. The idea of an individual, a citizen, who says, "I want to have my own monument, not to myself but to something." And one of the most beautiful, in fact, I would call it a gorgeous example of this, is the Watts Towers in L.A. In the Watts neighborhood of L.A. basically Rodia, St. Simon Rodia, built these gorgeous towers. And he was a mason himself, so they were built with parts of metal, but also all kinds of found objects that children in neighborhoods would bring to him. And the details are gorgeous, but also, the structural stability of this thing. He was for decades fighting the city government of L.A. because they thought, oh you don't have permission to. So, he kept trying to get the right permissions, and so eventually, he gave up and he moved in his old age and left them there to someone. And then they were going to destroy them, but a group of citizens came here and said these are gorgeous artworks and monuments, we have to preserve them. And they had to go through a safety test. Even though the foundation only has about two feet, and these towers are enormous. I've been there. They basically use cranes to test the stability and this is one of the most stable things that any human has ever built of that size. I love this category, which is the, what are we calling this? It's the untrained artists. The untrained artists monuments. Some people call it folk art, but when it comes to monuments, it is its own category of the monument. And I feel like every city has got their iteration of that kind of thing. Oh, there's more? Yeah. Because every example we have listed, Nato, is basically within urban settings, right? Right. And the large majority of humans do not live in a city, right? Although we are living in that transition, even in China from the rural to the urban, most people live outside of big cities. Wait, that's true? Yeah. I didn't know that. So, why do we think that public art can only exist for those people? Well, it actually is not true.