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Public Art .Fund: Testing What’s Real and What’s Not


How can digital technologies let us test the limits of what’s real and what’s not? 2014 5CollDH microgrant recipient Baillie Vensel (Smith College ’16) explores this question, and its socioeconomic dimensions, in her microgrant project Public Art . Fund. Learn more, in her own words:

Public Art .Fund began as a project for the 5 College Studio Art Seminar in Social Practice taught by Amanda Herman that took place during the Fall semester of 2014.

Originally the goal was to create a falsified public arts presenting organization that promised unlimited funding to all that applied with very few restrictions or requirements for selection. Ironically, there was never any money with which to produce contemporary public art projects. In this way, the fund could draw questions, skepticism, and criticism to the public art establishments that provide “funding” to artists for projects in public space. This is made visible in the name of the organization: Public Art .Fund is an appropriation of the name of a very well known public arts presenter based in New York City (Public Art Fund) notorious for bringing very well known artists into public space in New York, for an arguably elite demographic audience.

As the project has evolved, all the real world attempts of the fund have began to fade. Rather than posing as a funding body, Public Art .Fund is becoming a digital archive and database of limitless projects aimed for a public audience, a truly public audience. Rather than providing monetary funding for these projects, I would like to allow the social possibilities of artistic intervention to live and flourish. This is meant to be a sort of commentary on how the internet (in its best moments) epitomizes “public space,” and although there is no requirement for the works submitted to the fund to be internet based, by posting them and only allowing them to survive as an online database they become part of a digital footprint of public art.

In the past few months publicart.fund has gone through several transformations, first as an index page connected to viewers in a gallery via a QR code, then a larger website explaining the both the real and conceptual aims of the fund (pictured above). I am currently developing the new webpage and format for the database for limitless projects in public art. The webpage is currently offline, but will hopefully be up and running in its next iteration soon.

Baillie Vensel
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5CollDH microgrant recipient Baillie Vensel is currently in her third year of studying Art at Smith College. She has a multidisciplinary practice, working primarily in photography, video, and installation.

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