Experts take to panel to discuss both public, juried top 20

On Monday, October 6 art experts lead the conversation around the public and juried top 20 ArtPrize candidates for 3-dimensional and time-based categories.

Panelists (from left) Scott Stulen, Paddy Johnson and Miranda Lash

/Christopher John Wilson

Panelists (from left) Scott Stulen, Paddy Johnson and Miranda Lash

With ArtPrize into its final lap, the discussions are starting to heat up. Serving to foster dialog about the importance of art and culture and the impact that an event as unique as ArtPrize can have on a local community, “Why These Finalists” provided a panel of arts experts to look at the work selected by both jurors and the public in the 3D and Time-Based categories. 

As it is each year, the announcement of the top selections is both exciting and disappointing. Because ArtPrize is modeled on a democratically, pedestrian friendly perspective, tensions can often divide the art camps. Typically this manifests itself in a duality: the educated and professional artists versus the average viewer with little to no appreciation for genre or historical significance. This binary nature is nothing new, but rarely does dividing by opposing camps do any justice to the conversation about art. In fact, the reality of the situation is much more a gradation of particular expertise, experience, curiosity and novice appreciation.

The juried top 20 was introduced last year to hold this tension in balance. Yet the paneled discussion is inherently slanted towards perpetuating this dichotomy, and the present format begs the question, was there really a discourse, and who was it between?

The evening saw a packed room in attendance, aired live by Wood TV 8 and moderated by ArtPrize’s Kevin Buist. The panelists consisted of Scott Stulen, Curator of Audience Experience and Performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Miranda Lash from the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky and Paddy Johnson, art critic, founder and editor of Art F City, based in New York

The conversation was a balance of tactful criticism and blunt opinion, often evoking a humorous tone with audience reciprocation. For instance Color Out the Darkness by Carol Roeda was unanimously disliked by all three panelists to laughs among the crowd. Johnson’s response to Engulfed in Glasswas simply “It’s a bad piece. It’s a sunset which is so ubiquitous.” 

Always Nowhere, exhibited at the GRAM, did not impress. Johnson considered the piece too generic.

“I thought this piece was fairly mundane and boring,” says Stulen.

Peralux was another letdown, with Stulen referring to it as a technology “trap,” suggesting that the artists could have done more with the content. Johnson used the term “techno fetishism” and likened it to a “techno cave.” 

On the whole, the critics’ reviews leaned slightly towards the unsatisfactory. However there were moments of excitement and praise from the panelists. 

Urban Tumbleweed, notably a public vote selection, evoked an enthusiasm from the experts. The video piece is accompanied by a video that makes the piece work as a whole. The sounds produced by the tumbleweed as it rolls across lawn and asphalt, down stairs and hills is linear in the way in which it carries the story along. Because of this the tumbleweed takes on an anthropomorphic character, giving it a personality. This piece is representative of an idea, something both antiquated and futuristic. The teetering of these temporalities hold tension effortlessly in a zen-like meditation. There is no meaning conveyed with this piece. And yet meaning abounds and it is a device that allows the self to transcend the normal and enter into the subconscious- revealing a self awareness and identity. This may be at the same time both the most accessible and most difficult piece to approach.

“This is one of those really fun gems,” says Stulen.

According to Johnson, this was her favorite piece from ArtPrize ever, explaining that along with the sculpture itself, she feels the movie is well produced, deftly combining short comical shots, like the one of a man chasing after the sculpture as if it’s gotten away, and long meditative sections as we watch the piece roll down a hill.

Another favorite was ArtPrize! The Musical by Super Happy Funtime Burlesque. 

“I loved it. I thought it was hysterical,” ,” says Lash. “It was pretty ruthless.” 

Stulen though the musical was a well written, with catchy music. But his appreciation went beyond its entertainment value. 

“It’s a really fascinating conceptual piece,” he says.

Whether you’re an art professional or a person who rarely steps foot in an art museum, talking about art is an important conversation. 

Art is an idea. Though art is material, it also has an important incorporeal facet to it that frees it from the parameters of doctrine, allowing for a free flow of interpretation and subjective ambiguity. 

The idea of art transcends the material, and we are fascinated and excited, repulsed or bored by our encounter with art. But it is that encounter- that bridges the material with the immaterial. A dialog about art is always a bridge between the two, and at the same time and endless chasm. We ask why. Art provokes us to answer some of the most fundamental question about our existence.

We ask, “what does it mean?” 

That search for meaning takes the thought process beyond the tangible into the metaphysical, the temporal to eternal and the creative spirit is nursed on such musings. 

Art reciprocates. It requires a viewer to receive what message it seeks to transmit. And upon reception the mind is ignited, and the first sparks of creation are engaged. Creation of emotion, identity, dismissal or opinion are the result when we are willing to engage with art. 

This is the tune that the panelists played to. Often we agree, often we don’t. 

And the conversation continues.

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