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Involved Art

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Edible Estates

California-based artist Fritz Haeg regards the typical manicured front lawn as “an antisocial no-man’s-land” but also sees in them the potential for flourishing gardens that can reconnect us to our food source. He has converted several yards across the U.S. into urban oases, and most recently, was commissioned by the Tate Modern for its current show, Global Cities. This exhibition explores the future of mega-cities like Shanghai, Istanbul and Mexico City, among others, whose rapidly growing populations have ushered in a new shift for the planet from a population of mostly rural dwellers to predominately urbanites. A report released by the UN in July, revealed that over half of the world’s population now resides within cities.

As part of this show, Haeg took over a plot of undesirable land within walking distance of the Tate and worked with local residents to create an Edible Estate. Planting a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and grains, the site was dramatically transformed. Haeg sees the gardening process as an affront to the fast-food, instant-gratification culture we are met with each day. This oasis is now an open area that creates a stage on which the local gardeners act and play out a reality different than the predominant culture.

Haeg considers his Edible Estates to be works of conceptual art, however he also wants them to elicit thought and action. “I want kids to see these gardens and start to ask questions about where their food comes from,” Haeg says.

Global Cities is at Tate Modern, London from June 20-Aug 27.

Artist for Mayor

Chicken John, artist Rinaldi, performer and longtime Burning Man participant, has thrown his hat into the ring of San Francisco politics, waging an eclectic campaign against incumbent Mayor Gavin Newsom leading up to this November’s election.

His blog signoff is “Chicken John, mission art guy candidate for mayor of San Francisco 2007.” His self-proclaimed party affiliation is, “I like to party. Party hardy,” and while his approach is funny and off-beat, his decision to run for mayor is not a joke. Running on the platform of “For a City of Art and Innovation,” Chicken John wants to see more funding for the arts. However, he is quick to distinguish arts funding from that which financed the 60-foot-tall fiberglass and stainless-steel structure by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen which was erected on San Francisco’s waterfront five years ago. He regards this public art piece as an insult to every artist in the city.

Chicken John is also serious about engaging artists in the political process. He is adamant about introducing new ideas to the city, stating that “there’s not enough art and innovation in the political process, and too many creative minds are moving out.”

Chicken John is currently fundraising through grassroots events like chicken dinners. Paypal donations from his website helped him to raise the initial fee required to file as a mayoral candidate. He delivered this $4,748.50 payment in the form of a gigantic check made out to the account of the Department of Elections.

From a recent post on his blog, “The point isn’t to win – Gavin Newsom’s going to do that – the point is to fight a stellar losing battle; to draw attention to a number of issues that will otherwise be ignored; and to have fun doing it.”

Art response: STAT!

Emergency Room is a short, intense meeting of artists focused on the immediate response to recent current events in the world. Specially, artists create and exhibit works based on the events of the last 24-hour period. Created by French-born artist, Thierry Geoffroy, the idea for Emergency Room came from “a desire to learn what other artists think about current affairs from varied international perspectives under strict time constraints.” Emergency Room aims to privde a “physical space in which artists can display works made in reaction to current events, Emergency Room takes the pulse of the artistic community today. On each day of the exhibition, artists will install new work in response to the events of the last 24 hours, an arrangement that recalls daily news cycles.” This artwork stays on view until the next day when new reactive work is created. The idea is to create community, to bring together artists from different artistic, political, and geographical backgrounds to respond to issues that increasingly impact and connect us all. Geoffroy presented past Emergency Room events at MOMA New York, as well as Galerie Olaf Stuber in Berlin and Kunsthallen Nikolaj in Copenhagen. The next Emergency Room will be held in Athens at the Ilena Tounta Contemporary Art Center starting September 1 and running through October 6. Other events are currently being planned for Barcelona, Paris, London, Cairo and Toronto.

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