There is a history of artists making public artworks that address environmental issues. In 1982 German artist Joseph Beuys conceived 7000 Oaks in Kassel Germany. In the same year American artist Agnes Denes created the artwork called Wheatfield – A Confrontation in New York. This work involved her planting and cropping two acres of wheat in downtown Manhattan. Denes examined the natural cycles of growth and regeneration. Her stated purpose was to call “people’s attention to having to rethink their priorities.” She constructed the Wheatfield on a landfill near the World Trade Center, an unlikely spot for crop production.
Typically, a park is a designated space for recreation, sport, leisure; or conservation segregated from the urban living environment. A park is a defined and enclosed physical space. The Park that we are proposing you help us make is not physically located in a single space – but is made up of many private contributions, dispersed across the city. When many private contributions are connected they become a common and collective space – The Park.
The Park attempts to be an public sculpture that is not an illustration of environmental issues – but an active solution that has the potential to generate a sense of community, pride and public ownership.
The history of the idea Social Sculpture
The concept of social sculpture was created by German artist Joseph Beuys in the 1960’s who proposed sculpture could be the community itself – shaping their society or their environment by using language, thoughts, actions, and objects.
A famous example of his work is 7000 Oaks conceived in 1982 in which he proposed planting 7000 sapling oaks next to 7000 1.2 meter high basalt rock makers in the city of Kassel Germany. That year 7000 Basalt rocks were dumped onto a lawn outside an exhibition building in Kassel. The community of Kassel were then invited to decide where these trees would be planted in their city. After five years the 7000 rocks were finally planted next to the saplings and no longer sat outside the exhibition building. Today you can see these trees towering all over Kassel as well as New York where the project was extended by The Dia Foundation.
Whose idea is The Park?
The conceptual artwork called The Park is the result of several years of collaboration between the artists Taarati Taiaroa and Sarah Smuts-Kennedy who met while completing their Masters at the University of Auckland, Elam School of Fine Art in 2011. In 2012 the artists began working on an idea for an artwork that would allow them to ask questions about the distinctions of public versus private space. They were also intrigued how they, two women living in Auckland, might discuss, critique and make Earth Works, a genre of art commonly defined by the work of American male artists who worked on large scales across vast spaces, often in the deserts of America, in the 1960′s. Over the years, the project has evolved and they became increasingly interested in how environmental work might also become an invitation to participate and a framework for change. The two artists are interested in problems inherent in the Relational art model and the potential the model Social Sculpture, developed by German artist Joseph Beuys, may offer for supporting a dynamic engagement between artists and the public to imagine, and make forms in collaboration.
The public sculpture The Park is a conceptual idea that is a framework for; thinking across space, increasing perception of relationships between nature and man, and transforming private space into a public artwork and individual actions into collective outcomes.
Both Sarah Smuts-Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa have their own individual art practices.
The Park was invited to be a foundation project for the Waitemata Local Boards inaugural Pop projects in 2014.