an "Art Care Package" - a large envelope filled with many bits of ephemera: photographs, slides, paint chips, audio CD's, foreign coins, and other materials

Art Care Package

The Scale of Art

We’ve spoken before about The Scale of Art. That when you make something very much larger or smaller than the default size of some medium, it changes the experience. When you make a photograph the size of a wall, the elements in it, perhaps people, tower over us in large ways. Or if a photograph is the size of a stamp, it asks us to get very close and pay very close attention.

There’s also another kind of scale in Art. The scale of the audience. Most artworks aren’t seen by too many people. But a lot of artists dream of showing their work in a gallery or a famous museum. And the most famous works are indeed seen by millions of people. This is fantastic. But does it change the nature of art when it is seen by so many? Are some things better with small audiences?

The performance artist Allan Kaprow created The Happening. It was the defining artform of his generation. His success in New York was enormous. But for him it was too much. He left New York and took a teaching position at UC San Diego. He stopped making Happenings and instead created Activities. Kaprow’s Activities had some relationship to his earlier Happenings, but generally they were smaller and more personal works.

The Art Care Package

This week we’re going to try creating an Art Care Package (ACP) for an audience of one. You can choose who you’d like to send to:

  • An Art110 Classmate
  • Friend or Relative
  • Stranger
  • Prisoner

This is a great chance to collaborate with an Art110 classmate. You can trade addresses and send a package to each other. You don’t have to meetup F2F or even be in the same city. But you can still think about them and make a package.

Friend or Relative:
In addition to someone your own age, it might be interesting and appreciated if you think of someone much older or younger than yourself to make an ACP for.

An unusual, but idea filled choice. “Stranger” could be literal or relative. Maybe you know someone online that you’ve never actually met F2F. You could send to them. Or a real stranger that you hear about or get their address from a phone book or somewhere.

If you happen to think that someone like Chelsea Manning is wrongly imprisoned, you might send an ACP to her. After her release from 2 years in prison, Nadya Tolokonnikova talked about how much the mail from strangers lifted her spirits and kept her alive. She also felt that the large bags of mail she received motivated the prison authorities not to beat her as they otherwise would have, so the mail may have kept her alive both spiritually and physically.

Your Art Care Package

Prepare an envelope or box of ephemera and send it to your person.

Some items might be specific to:

  • You: the sketch you made this morning, the page you tore out of the old textbook that buyback wouldn’t take, your parking ticket, etc.
  • The person you’re sending to: what you know about a friend, read on a classmate’s blog, etc
  • This cultural moment: a headline from the Daily 49er, a Donald Trump campaign button, and so on.

Your care package could contain “Art” as in your sketches, postcards from art museums and so on, but it can also be art it it’s own right. So it doesn’t have to be about art, it could be about Chemistry or Dating or anything else. The “Art” is in the elegance of your assemblage.

Who knows, you might get a postcard back! Maybe a few of you will start ongoing postcard conversations. Actual paper mail! It’s a little more work and not as fast as Snapchat or Facebook, but with a small amount of effort, the ephemera in your ACP might touch someone in ways non-tactile electronic media often don’t.

Your Blog Post

As always, photograph & write about what you create.

  • Include a photo of the contents of your envelope or package before you send it
  • Be sure to say who you sent it to. Stating their actual name is optional, but at least say something like a 70-year-old friend in London, or my 6-year-old niece in San Francisco.
  • Write about the experience of creating your ACP:
  1. How is sending someone an ACP similar to sending someone a Snapchat?
  2. How is sending someone an ACP different from sending them a Snapchat?
  3. What do you think of ephemera? Is it precious? Or trash? Does it gain in value over time? Does your grandma’s parking ticket from half a century ago mean something to you? What about her tickets from Woodstock? What might your grandkids think if you one day gave them the bead bracelet you wore at Coachella?
  4. Is there a difference between art that is seen by many people, like a painting in the Museum of Modern Art, and art that is seen by few, like the ACP you send to someone?
  5. You can take a Snapchat and a friend on the other side of the globe can view it, all within seconds. To make an ACP and send it even to a nearby friend will take days. Does this time and effort difference mean something? How is fast better? How is slow better?
  6. People sometimes say things like prepare a meal with love. Can you prepare a meal with love as fast as you can get food at a McDonald’s drive-thru? Does an ACP have the possibility of containing a sort of “love” different from a Snapchat?

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