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Not So Good

August 19, 2011


This is one of the rare instances where I do not have any positive responses to something art and/or design based.  I write “something” because I don’t even want to call it art.  I realize anything I write is my opinion, feel free to disagree.  I’m more inclined to make observations about something or question aspects of what is being presented to me.  I really didn’t like this concept at all; neither did my friend Noelle who was with me.

The artist credited with this site specific installation, for which signs tell you is a site specific art installation, is Kay Rosen who has a number of similar works in all-capital letter block text and a bright highlighter yellow.  The purpose of the collection of elements is to interpolate the viewer and get them to go to the website associated with it:

Connect Art to Action

In celebration of Kay Rosen’s art installations in the Loop, Chicago Loop Alliance and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago created GO DO GOOD, a summer-long, city-wide movement to prepare Chicago’s kids to succeed in school. We want to see kids graduate, contribute to our workforce, support their future families, maintain their health and, ultimately, build stronger communities.”

Without going to the website, you have no idea what the fuck the saturation of the words and repetition of their placement means.  Is it to help the homeless?  Is it for recycling?  Standing on one of the busiest streets in the Chicago Loop and seeing it all does not give any indication that the whole thing is trying to promote an initiative to help children.

I like text art and lean toward Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer or Christopher Wool.  I feel there has to be an aesthetic behind the use of text as art, planning and design, and this work just didn’t do it for me.  The design was too simple; the repetition of the design was irritating.  The placement of this installation in a place as prominent as State Street and the sheer expense of creating the thing makes me want it to have been better.

Reasons why I disliked it so much include:

  • I did not like the aesthetic.  The font and color are obnoxious; more so with the street flooded by them.  My first reaction was anger in wondering what all this obnoxious media blitz was.  I realize we are saturated with advertisements in an urban environment, but beating the viewing public over the head with neon yellow and block text is condescending.  It is like saying “This is what I have to resort to in order to get your attention.”  I think a site specific installation using the same materials could have been done any number of ways with different imagery and/or text used more in a expressive manner.
  • It does nothing more than uses the advertising tactic of media saturation.  Without the sign explaining it was art and associating it to a website, the individual pieces fail to convey meaning.  I think this fails as art as much as it fails to be effective advertising.  Nike or Coca-Cola or any number of other large corporate entities could have used this space similarly but they have recognizable messages that would have been grasped promptly by the majority of, if not all of, the viewing public.  “GOOD” on a giant banner on each light post does not inform me of anything, except that someone put that up for a reason.  Unlike Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant graffiti, this installation is not clever enough to mimic commercial branding in its use of advertising saturation.  It just yells words at you and fails to convey meaning or carry any iconography.
  • It not inspirational.  I did mention it was like propaganda in the video, which was my second impression, although propaganda that fails to evoke any useful emotions.  If it made me feel curious, was humorous or uplifting, then I may feel the urge to take action and look at the website.  Noelle strongly felt that this installation had the opposite effect of inspiring action, and I agree.  Usually, championing a cause involves evoking empathy.  At least an oil soaked bird makes me want to sign a petition against BP or a malnourished child makes me want to donate money to Somalia.  The tactic used by this installation is too counter-intuitive to mainstream advertising.  If I weren’t going to bother to blog about it, I certainly would not have been inspired to go to the website and look into the meaning behind the installation at all.
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