Art Conditions

April 6, 2010  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

The thing that first caught my eye about Minnesota’s Art Shanty Projects was the mission statement (emphasis mine):

  • “Art Shanty Projects is an artist driven temporary community exploring the ways in which the relatively unregulated public space of the frozen lake can be used as a new and challenging artistic environment to expand notions of what art can be.”

A frozen lake struck me as a fantastic addition to the catalog of overlooked public niche spaces we’ve talked about before, and one with compelling implications and challenges. Aesthetically, the stark, uninterrupted backdrop evokes a sort of deconstructed museum space, showcasing the whimsical shanties and their performers. Creating art in such an entirely unscripted location is a fascinating prospect – anything could happen.

And, it appears, anything does: the four-weekend exhibition held on the frozen Medicine Lake in Minnesota is self-proclaimed “performance, architecture, science, art, video, literature, survivalism and karaoke… part sculpture park, part artist residency and part social experiment, inspired by traditional ice fishing houses that dot the state’s lakes in winter.”

Art Shanty Project, 2010

To any Bay Area resident, the themes, and even the imagery, resonate…

Burning Man, 2009

Paraformances and flash mobs exploit our collective discomfort with breaking the social script, using a familiar setting to reflect our own notions back on ourselves. But what if you take away the familiar, too? From the caustic climate of Burning Man to the frigid expanse of a Midwestern lake in winter, severe weather conditions seem to be a key ingredient for these “social experiment” projects. Is there a precedent or name for art that’s purposefully undertaken in the harshest physical conditions? What experiences, lessons, or insights are to be gained from incorporating this type of pressure into the creative pot?

Art Shanty, 2010

Art Shanty, 2010

Art Shanty, 2010

Art Shanty, 2010

2 Comments

  1. Renny Pritikin Says:

    I love the juxtaposition of the ice shacks and burning man. That’s the kind of visual leap that thrills me. How about the artists who make work in deliberately difficult-to-find places, like Spiral Jetty or Lightning Field or Heizer’s monumental works et al? Is that a parallel activity, maybe not weather-obstacle but distance obstacle…

  2. Rebar Says:

    Renny, those do seem in the same vein to me! Land art generally has its own obstacles of scale, but works that require the artist and spectator to embark on a journey are particularly interesting in a similar way. They ask a lot, but perhaps they give you a lot back too?

    Apsara DiQuinzio’s post about desert earthworks documents the altered state induced by traveling to remote artworks pretty well, especially the part about the Sun Tunnels: http://blog.sfmoma.org/2009/11/adqdesert-obsessions/

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