There is no place like home

Art as Counter-Narrative in Public Space

When I was invited by museum in progress to conceive a design for their annual billboard project, I held several considerations immediately to mind. The public nature of the final work meant that my conception had to take into account the spatially literacy of the public. By this I mean the aggregate of signs and symbols that consume public space and therefore public attention. The public is literate, for example, to advertising forms such as billboards or posters, though they may respond differently to different advertisements. The point for me was that the project necessitated an acknowledgement of the generalized literacy of the public to public space, circumscribed heavily that it often is by private and commercial interests. The billboard provides for a more immediate conveyance of expression and greater distribution possibilities for the work.

A second consideration has to do with the problem of how to insert an artistic statement in the cacophony that fills up the experience of contemporary civic space. If indeed as Foucault claim, domination insinuates itself into all systems of production and communication, and in language, then I felt my project had to at least try to open up public space by providing an askance view to the domination. By this I mean, the work had to resolve the contradiction of acknowledging public familiarity with the structures, codes and messages of publicly sited discursive conveyances as well as provide for an articulation different from corporate culture. In other words, my had to register as art, familiar that it may be to the form of non-art. I wanted a way of using the billboards to express disillusionment with public media's manipulative nature.

A third consideration has to do with the phenomenon of globalization which has demanded of artists new strategies for dealing with the sense of "home", and belonging, in the shifting realm of race, sexuality and dynamics. This problem is not confined to Austria despite the example of the Freedom Party. I did not want to have my work translated into German. "Home" is an English word that can mean many things and not much at all; it is a cipher for possible other meanings, unlike "heimat" or "la maison". Indeed, the multi-valence of the word "home" suggests a particularly American mobility of meaning. "Home" has come to mean the of a free-floating and destabilizing yearning for place and settlement. If the ground of is the stylized repetition of acts through time, then home is the site for such repetitive acts. The reenactment of a set of meanings over and over again at the same place produces a sense of home. In our cybernetic age, such reenactments can occur as an exclusively mental exercise. In other words, home can simply be a state of mind.