24 November 2005

Activist Art

It seems like such a good idea, Activist Art. People look at art, and they try to figure it out, and maybe they take something with them from the experience. Why not have that 'something' be a message that could change their world-view, or at least the way they take a shower?

That’s exactly what is behind The Running Tap, and you can read all about it here. Essentially, an artist has decided to leave a faucet running full force for a year. In the course of that time 200,000 liters of water will come and go through the House Gallery in Camberwell, south London before 27 June 2006 where this bit of Activist Art is taking place.

Here’s what the artist, Mark McGowan has to say about it:
"The piece is directed towards individuals. I've told them stuff like how you can waste up to 100 litres of water doing your washing up under a running tap, to draw attention to why I'm doing it."

As a person deeply committed to art and to the appreciation of it, and to the systems that promote and preserve art and the public’s access to it, I have to take issue with this piece. The idea is at best, half developed. Excessive waste to moralize against it? With more thought and effort I think McGowan could have come up with something far less hypocritical and better able to express the actual idea. To me, the best or most art-like part of what he has done is to expose our already-there sensitivity to waste. Everyone who sees this feels an urge to turn it off—which is not a new reaction in the viewer. It doesn’t raise awareness of the wasteful aspects of water usage because anyone who sees it is going to pat themselves on the back that they aren’t nearly so wasteful as this artist.

So anyway, all you activist artists out there, please be careful.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Of course, he will need to convince 200 people of the error of their ways to break even...