This February, a group of people from across Burnley, Wigan and Hull met up for the first time to be part of the interview selection panel for Networked Narrative's next public art commission. It was our job to decide which artist's idea we would like to work on developing into a public artwork for our hometowns for 2017.
Three ideas were presented to us, and each artist offered a radically different concept:
• Transforming our local areas and what they mean to us into a colourful chamber of patterns, images and sculptures
• Thinking about ‘what we want out of life’ and that art is everywhere and can be presented on billboards, mugs, or on the side of a rubbish bin vehicle
• Designing rock based musical instruments, which can be activated by lights among other things to create different sounds
Each artist was confident in their presentation and flexible with their ideas, pushing the boundaries of art in different ways from designing patterns with data, to putting an individual voice into the public area, or using technology with unusual materials.
After a long day of listening to them speak and asking lots of questions, we were each asked to pick the idea that we wanted to work on. The voting was very close, but there could only be one winner...
Congratulations to Mark Titchner whose ‘what is it that you want more than anything else?’ project captured everyone’s mind with its simple yet unique approach. The art is mainly about words, language and personal statements that can be placed anywhere and on any surface. By asking such a broad question, we felt it would provoke discussion in a more interesting way than the other projects, and his stipulation that the groups’ answer must begin ‘I want’ is challenging in itself.
Personally, I have a few potential answers so far, but I can’t find a satisfying one at the moment - something like "happiness" seems too vague. I’m also unsure on what type of art I would like us to work with, but Mark has experience to guide us; it can be everything from murals or posters to advertising on bin wagons. Mark Titchner has worked on installation, sound art, and murals. He’s even created art that has appeared on chippy wrappers.
He believes art should have debate as part of its form, which is why his work asks questions of its audience, and his project focuses on advertising without a product. The premise ‘what is it that you want more than anything else?’ is a striking contrast to everyday advertising, where we are constantly being told that we want/need something; instead we will have a chance to voice our opinions.
Mark was open to participants using different mediums to display our messages, and I like the fact that this project can be displayed across town and potentially create a lasting legacy either through people seeing / keeping the products we create. Another strong advantage is the simplicity of the message; its repetition means it can affect more people of different ages and encourage them to think what it is they want from life.
This opportunity to get involved and choose the artist really opened my eyes about mainstream public art, as previously I had thought it was more about paintings, comics and statues. But the presentations showed me that art can be about data; it can be compatible with sound technology and can be exhibited on a variety of different platforms. It made me think about how fictional writing is like art - it aims to not only to entertain, but to inspire and influence.
What I have enjoyed so far is that we, as young people, get the chance to meet real artists, and I think that this project can inspire people to get involved with art in a whole new way. We have the oppirtunity to take part in the real world and experience different environments, which is not possible in a classroom as the primary focus is on getting good grades. It has also helped me improve my communication skills and learn new tech skills, such as how to use Twine software.
This phase of the project is interesting, as we are getting a say in our local area, which rarely happens. In fact, the last time I remember having my voice listened to, was when I was asked for my opinion on the choice of art to be placed on Hope Island roundabout.
Networked Narrative is a better opporutnity though, because we are designing the artwork with the artist and actually having our opinions taken on board. Interviewing the artists was really enjoyable and I would recommend getting involved in this project to any young people interested in art. Mark's project is strong because of its simple idea and flexibility to create different art pieces that wouldn’t normally be considered art, and I'm looking forward to working with him.
If you are aged 13-25yrs, live in Burnley, Wigan or Hull and want to make an artwork for your hometown, please email NN@fact.co.uk