Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Location, Location, Location: What Really Matters During ArtPrize

Some nicknames that became popular amongst the
service industry this year: #fartprize #artprison
#shartprize | Courtesy of ArtPrize
It's over! ArtPrize! It's ended! Words cannot express how grateful so very, very many people from the service industry are to know that this week, we all might actually get two days off. Though we made money hand over fist, too few bars and restaurants were adequately staffed. But that's understandable, considering the fact that the wave of people that ArtPrize brings is merely temporary. Sure, it lasts three weeks and it can bring a server/bartender/barback to her/his emotional and physical knees--usually through a combination of customers' lofty expectations and personal frustration regarding humanity--but it ends. And we've made it. Congratulations, my sisters and brothers: We did it.

Now that I've got that off my chest, let's move onto my next rant: the holier-than-thou attitude that so many locals have regarding this competition. Let's get real for a second: Art is art. To those of you who say that ArtPrize is filled to the brim with garbage, get off your high horse. Sure, some of it is not going to be good. A lot of it is not going to be impressive, but that doesn't give you the right to scoff at the entirety of the process. First, consider what ArtPrize has done for Grand Rapids: It has put us on a global map--not just a national map, a worldly one. Seriously, people from all over the world come to see what art is displayed and, at the same time, see what our city has to offer. This is incredible and has given us a serious boost in cosmopolitan cred over the last few years.

Second, realize that ArtPrize is about art. Some artists will certainly peddle to the crowds that they think will vote and give them a victory (and $200,000 along with it) but many will do their best to make something that they believe in, something that piques the curiosity of a viewer, something that speaks through the artist and peaks into the souls of anyone who visits the piece. I found something like this at the Kendall College Federal Building: It's called Trash Mirror and I hope it stays put for a serious amount of time--screw it, I want it in this town forever. Words would not do it justice, but I'll try anyways: Basically, you stand in front of a wall of pixelated trash, each pixel possessing a motor. A camera watches you from somewhere within the piece and when you stand in front of it, your reflection is cast in the trash pixels. The motors bend the corresponding pieces of trash from up to down, creating a shadowy interpretation of your figure. It's really something to behold, just like another installation in the same building: Courtesy Hallway | Doors.

This installation is a set of nine doors that swing in both directions. The hallway measures 32 feet and visitors get to walk/run/creep/crawl through each of those feet and each of those doors to come out the other side. A friend and I went through this entry a handful of times, laughing and running and enjoying the hell out of it. Something that I didn't enjoy was that these pieces (and several others at the Federal Building) were neglected due to location. How sad it is to see the old realtors' proverb in truthful action: location, location, location. It's what matters during ArtPrize and if you look at the Top 10, it's blatantly obvious that this is the case. All of them were located within a few blocks of the Grand River (at most), with the top four showcased at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. What's up with that? Apparently a large number of ArtPrize voters didn't care to walk or bike around Grand Rapids to see some of the more far flung pieces.   And the fact that two of the Top 10 were quilts? Again, something curious is going on here: Are ArtPrize goers getting older? Are quilts hip? Are hipsters being sarcastic, making ArtPrize another one of their victims? Or are older people just finally learning how to use smartphones? Alas, it's a mystery that will have to be solved next year.