Public Art as Community Building, #3

March 23, 2014: At The Draftsmen’s Congress, New Museum, NYC

On Sunday, March 23, Elena and I joined artists from Art Kibbutz  at the New Museum in New York City to participate in The Draftsmen’s Congress, a public art project created by Polish artist, Pawel Althamer. Art Kibbutz is a residency for international Jewish artists founded by Patricia Eszter Margit in 2012,

Althamer originally conceived and executed Draftsmen’s Congress for the 7th Berlin Biennale in 2012 to engage participants from diverse backgrounds in a ‘conversation’ through images, rather than words, on issues that were relevant to them in contemporary society. He invited groups of artists as well as a wide range of social and political organizations from the local community to mark the walls and floors of the installation space with a variety of drawing and painting materials. After each group completed its collective drawing, the next group to participate in the project worked over what was done previously, so that the space became a layered representation of the entire community of participants. Similarly, the blank white space of the New Museum’s fourth floor gallery has been transformed over the course of two months through the gradual accumulation of drawings and paintings by Museum visitors and invited community groups, including Art Kibbutz.

Prior to our one-day residency on March 23rd at The Draftsmen’s Congress, 20 participating members of Art Kibbutz from all over the US, France, Netherlands, South Africa, the Former Soviet Union, Argentina, Georgia, Japan and Korea met with Judaic scholars for two learning sessions to develop an approach to the project that was founded on Jewish values and practices. Using the Kabbalah and the Torah for inspiration, the group focused on the Torah’s fundamental concept of “loving your fellow as yourself,” to underscore what Althamer’s exhibition is trying to create: a non-judgmental, harmonious conversation among a diverse community that fosters dialogue and understanding. Over the course of the day, Art Kibbutz artists pulled instructions previously contributed by members of the group from a hat and handed them off to each other for execution. In this way we were creating a community of images that represent an interactive exchange of ideas.

When Elena and I arrived at the New Museum, the Art Kibbutz group had just begun creating a series of large circles over the existing images that encompassed three walls of the gallery.  Although each circle was distinct and embodied the artistic style and color choices of its ‘artist,’ the cumulative visual effect was bold, dynamic and unified. I contributed my own series of circles while Elena began to create three ladders that spanned from floor to ceiling.

 Draftsmen's Congress, #1, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #1, March 23, 2014

 Draftsmen's Congress, #2, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #2, March 23, 2014

Draftsmen's Congress, #3, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #3,
March 23, 2014

 Art Kibbutz Artist at Draftsmen's Congress, March 23, 2014


Art Kibbutz Artist at Draftsmen’s Congress, March 23, 2014

What Did We Conclude About The Experience?

We were amazed by how quickly the collective ‘drawing’ was transformed.  By the time we left at the end of the day, our circles, marking our physical presence, were being modified and taken over by other images, similar to the way in which incoming waves erase previous marks made upon the sand.  We were once again reminded that the process itself of making art is often more important than the creation of a single, ‘precious’ object. And, most importantly, we experienced the richness that can come from building a community by participating in public art.

Public Art As Community Building, #2

The Draftsmen’s Congress: Pawel Althamer’s Collaborative Public Art Project at The New Museum, NYC

On March 23, 2014, Elena and I will be participating in a public art project hosted by Polish sculptor and collaborative artist, Pawel Althamer, and The New Museum in NYC entitled, Draftsmen’s Congress.  We were selected by Art Kibbutz, an international Jewish artist residency and community as part of a team of artists from all over the U.S, the Former Soviet Union, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Georgia, Hungary, Argentina and England. The one-day, ‘mini-residency’ on March 23 will result in the creation of a large collaborative drawing that will encompass the entire fourth floor of the museum.

Pawel’s exhibition at The New Museum will include his most recent sculptures, the “Venetians” that were exhibited at the 2013 Venice Biennale.  The life-size bodies incorporate the faces and hands of local Venetians cast in plastic before being attached to bodies composed of extruded plastic ribbons. The group of eerie sculptures create a haunting composition of lost souls, emphasizing Pawel’s own declaration that “it is a major achievement to realize that the body is only a vehicle for the soul.’

 Pawel Althamer, "The Venetians" The Encyclopedic Palace: Arsenale. Venice Biennale 2013


Pawel Althamer, “The Venetians,” The Encyclopedic Palace: Arsenale. Venice Biennale 2013

The Venetians will be presented alongside Althamer’s series of videos, “So-Called Waves and Other Phenomena of the Mind” (2003–04). as well as The Draftsmen’s Congress, a project based on his fundamental belief in the value of collaborative art as a medium for social change.  He first presented a version of the Draftsmen’s Congress at the 2012 Berlin Biennale. Over the course of the exhibition, the blank white space of the New Museum’s Fourth Floor gallery will be transformed through the gradual accumulation of drawings and paintings by Museum visitors and a wide array of invited community organizations. After each group completes its collective drawing, the next group to participate in the project will work over what was done previously, so that the space becomes a layered representation of the entire community of participants.

 Draftsmen's Congress at the 2013 Venice Biennale


Draftsmen’s Congress at the 2012 Berlin Biennale

In preparation for the mini-residency, Elena and I will be attending three planning sessions with the Art Kibbutz team of artists to develop a sense of community among the participants and a collective approach to the project based on fundamental Jewish principles. The planning process for the March 23 mini-residency as well as the entire Draftsmen’s Congress is a powerful form of public art as community building.