Postmodern Art: A Public Art Medium Essay
Postmodern Art: A Public Art Medium
So much has changed in the art world in the past few decades. Because of the rapid growth of technology, democracy and globalization, arts today are more mass-oriented, so that many resources and facilities for both the appreciation and the production of arts are made available and accessible to all. It is predictable that arts will play a more active role in this century. In fact, this notable shift in arts is one of a characteristic of Postmodernism. In general, Postmodernism deems art as “a form of cultural production” which reflects cultural conditions.
They question those “good” arts and “good” designs. They try to blur the boundaries between “good” and “bad” aesthetics. Hence, the interaction between the artworks and the audience makes the audience, in a way, part of the art. Thus, communicating with the public becomes a crucial part, and as an example fits well into this new cultural paradigm — it is “public art”. One of the philosophies of Postmodern Art is emphasizing collaboration and participation. That is, production is not only artists’ business.
In the South Bronx in New York, one of the poorest and most dangerous parts of the city, artist John Ahearn and his assistant Robert Torres created life-castings of people in the neighborhood by collaborating directly with the community that will come into contact with the artwork. These people participated and supported the art, becoming the part of production. Meanwhile community gives artists a location, inspiration and purpose. The definition of art suddenly becomes not so absolute and exclusive. Participants now can express their ideas and thoughts, therefore raising the possibilities of new forms of creativity.
John Ahearn’s sculpture project is not only one example focusing on general public. Another eminent Pop artist, Claes Oldenburg embodies the concepts of postmodernism in his public artworks, such as “Clothespin” and “Dropped Cone”. By creating sculptures of mass culture objects, again, Claes Oldenburg aimed to blur the distinction between “high” and “low” culture. That is to say, there is no more hierarchy of culture and that the topic of art may gain from any source of life. Under the trend of Postmodernism, artists today are also assigned to the new responsibility, and this new idea redetermines the intrinsic values of artworks.
If we consider art as a form of social practice, art can be seen as an approach that people participate and decipher the images and symbols of the world. Since art is a means of participation, the challenges of artists nowadays are not only producing new artworks, but also producing the artworks that serve as a stimulus for revaluation and interaction of culture and people. In other words, the meaning of art in this era is not so simple to display the aesthetics. It is about how to interpret and transcode our culture, and then reconstruct what we had in the past.