Innovation, a word mostly linked with engineering and technology, is often ignored in other fields of creativity. With contemporary and urban artists refusing to yield to the stereotype of pretty paintings and colors, public art innovation, seems to be a rising trend in urban environments. From moving sculptures to canvases made of miniature toy soldiers, we take a closer look into well-recognized artwork that demonstrates the growing trend of innovative public art.
Art That Moves
The ancient concept of the human-as-statue was challenged by 68-year-old Dutch artist Theo Jansen who crafted kinetic sculptures made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that can move independently on the beach by wind. By working on his creations for over 20 years, the artist is seeking to fulfill a life-long dream to manufacture creations that can move forever without being hindered by the environment.
The first animal-looking mechanical sculptures where made to walk by help from Jansen. He later developed propeller and a sail so that his products would not need his help to move. “I want to put them out of the beaches where they can live in the future and they don’t have to eat because they gather energy from the wind,” the artist tells BBC in an interview.
The innovation was not in just that these sculptures can move but rather how they were developed to be smart-sculptures. The artist has created some sculptures that can store wind energy and avoid drowning in the sea.
“The wind pump up air in lemonade bottles, which are on top of the [sculpture] and they can use the energy in case the wind falls away and the tide is coming up,” Jensen says. “This is the water feeler and this tube sucks in air normally and when it swallows water it feels the resistance of it.”
Other sculptures were created to be smart enough to sense obstacles and turn around in a different direction.
The concept of moving artwork has been employed by other artists such as Anthony Howe. Howe’s pieces are fixed into the ground but have shapes attached to them that can move with the wind, creating mesmerizing movements.
American artist Jean Shin gave an artistic makeover to a dumpsite in Seattle’s North Transfer Station (NTS), using 10,000 linear feet of new and repurposed reinforcing bars (rebar) from the demolished NTS building. The rebar used to create the artwork was painted with bright orange, creating a vibrant link between what was once industrial infrastructure and what is now public art.
Enitled Reclaimed, Shin was commissioned to construct the public artwork by the City of Seattle. According to Shin, the “Sculptures map the topography of the site in 1966 before the land masses were cut to accommodate the building.”
“When the current facility was built over 50 years ago, the city processed all solid waste as garbage, which ended up in landfills,” the City says on its website. “Today, the city separates solid waste into multiple waste streams, including recyclables and green waste, with multiple end uses in mind.”
Other, simpler implementation of repurposing waste to brighten up what was once gloomy includes the use of plastic bags by artist Joshua Allen Harris who created inflatable animals using trash bags and subway air.
Hyde and Seek Plastic
Decorating fences, walls and stairs, Australian artists Hyde and Seek reorganized plastic cups and toy soldiers into colorful public art work. “Street artist duo Hyde & Seek bring art to the streets in the most unlikely of ways. Expect the unexpected from these Adelaide, Australia based creative,” the artists’ Facebook page reads.
The red, blue and black cups are plastic inside the voids in fences, creating a vivacious space. Another work, named The Battle, includes the use of green, white, blue and black miniature plastic soldiers to create an image of a dancing person.
The artists were recently commissioned by the Australian Heart Foundation and Adelaide City Council to paint the stairs of the Adelaide Railway Station as part of a campaign to encourage people to take the stairs rather than the elevator.
Other plastic artistic innovations include the work Spanish urban artist Francisco de Pajaro who uses plastic garbage bags and carton boxes to create colorful cartoonish monsters and humans.
Dutch designer and innovator Daan Roosegaarde developed forms that light up upon human touch. The waterproof marble-looking forms have LEDs, sound speakers and sensors installed in them which allow them to glow and change color, “changing their mood from “bored” to “excited.”
According to Studio Roosegaarde, the marbles only use 15 watts and are also able “to multiply these interactions between themselves, communicating with each other” and transforming the “landscape into an interactive playground of light.”
The marbles were exhibited in Route in Rotterdam and Almere in the Netherlands and in London’s Jubilee Park in the United Kingdom, along with other places.