refining a pubic art project

this project will go thru several stages (see previous posts, below). when i do a public art project all by myself, i spend many hours working up ideas before i settle on one, refine it with several drawings, then submit one drawing, as finished as possible, to whoever gets to approve my project.

but this public art project is different for many reasons. nobody put out a call for artists with a preselected site and materials and budget. it’s my idea, and i’m bringing it forward hoping to get people interested. so i will encounter resistance simply because nobody but me is thinking this way and it’s my job to get them interested. but i don’t have a finished final drawing to show them. i just have an idea – hey, i’d like to do a public art project in north iceland! whoopee! but all anybody can say to that is, ‘okay, and…?’

another reason it’s different is that much of it has to be done from thousands of miles away. which means a lot of other people will be involved. a lot of the work i’ll be doing will be done right here, on my computer, in emails and blog posts and facebook messges. others will have to choose a site and prepare it, make local contacts and organize the participants. i hope to minimize the burden on others, but the work they put into the project will mean it becomes their project, rather than mine. which is great.

the reason for this update is because my contact on the ground, the wonderful director of my art residency, has been talking to people around town about the ideas she and i brainstormed together in some facebook messages. and one of the people she’s been talking to came up with a really good objection to one of my ideas, which is that wildflower gardens take maintenance. and my whole operating method is to bring my art to a certain stage of completion and then walk away. so, because i don’t want to cause a train wreck, i am rethinking my idea.

the suggestion was that we might make some use of all the rock that came out of the tunnel that now connects the two towns of fjallabyggd. it was just finished a couple of years ago, and i’ll just bet there are tons and tons of rocks of all sizes and shapes, just lying around collecting moss.

schoolrocks
here is an example of the rocks from the tunnel, decorating Menntaskólinn á Tröllaskaga, the local junior college.

the suggestion was also made that we could take the fairies into account.

i am of two minds about this. i believe in fairies, and you don’t mess with them. they are a proud people and don’t like being dissed.  but when you talk about rocks, and rocks of a certain size, and rocks which aren’t a normal part of the landscape, then i think fairy houses. so, maybe, we could use some of the rocks blasted out of the mountain, and make a fairy city. if the fairies didn’t mind, and the townspeople didn’t mind.

google translate gives álfur uppgjör, i’m sure there are many other ways to say it in icelandic, but i like Huldufólkbyggd. fjallabyggd is the name of the conjoined towns, and olafsfjord has a lot of -byggd streetnames.  i assume they refer to the fact that these streets used to be swampy vacant land, and i assume they were built up in recent decades.  byggd sometimes translates to ‘built-up area.’

so, the idea i came back with, based on practical criticism of my plan and a good suggestion for an alternative, is this.

we can take a number of rocks, not large ones but too big for people to lift, from whatever pile they’re in, and move them to a suitable site (which we’re working on finding). then, we can build a tiny little town of fairy houses.  we could make a design of our own, or even a small version of olafsfjordur itself.  we can make streets of paving sized stones, and buildings of larger rocks set into or on top of the ground. then we can decorate them as fairy houses, and plant flowers and grasses around them.

this would require a whole lot of participation by the people who live there.  for instance, i would like to open the design of the elf city to people who live there. we could have a contest, all ages. then, the ground that is selected will need to be cleared and prepared. and then the rocks have to be selected, moved, and placed.  this is real work, and it would be great if there was some local funding to compensate the people who will do this.  perhaps that kickstarter campaign…

the fun part would come after all the grunt work. i want to get the children involved in decorating the buildings. kids are great at painting, and they could make really good doors and windows, roofs, other architectural details.  if it was decided to make a mini-olafs, then they would be really good at making small copies of all the buildings in the town.

we would put annual flowers in front of the houses, and make streetsigns, and have a big party to open the exhibit. while i’m in the town, i will make up special seed packages to give out, and then later, in the fall, people can plant them around the fairy houses, which will grow next year, and hopefully make a permanent garden around the stones.

that’s my idea at the moment.  i have sent it off to the people who are interested in it, in facebook messages, and when they have a chance to think about it, they will respond with their thoughts, and i will think about what they say and redesign the project again.

if anybody reading this has an opinion or suggestion, i welcome them.

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