Michael Smit
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SIDEWALK DRAWINGS

One day while walking I stumbled onto a probably accidental arrangement of a few twigs on a sidewalk corner, it was a simple and abstract configuration that caught my eye especially since it resembled a style of drawing I had previously worked in (ink drawings on cardboard), in my studio. This discovery set off a project that I intermittently worked on for the next eight months and called it (Collaborative) Sidewalk Drawings.

My initial and instinctive response was to find more twigs (which the eucalyptus trees in the immediate area had dropped plenty of, on the ground around there) and continue on what almost seemed like an already started drawing by somebody else. I liked the idea of 'unfinished drawings', and the form of site-specific drawing with naturally present materials and the subsequent relation it helped develop with the site. This was eeven before I learned of Andy Goldsworthy's work, that he does in (often isolated) nature. To me this process was about developing a relation with a (use) place; and indirectly inviting others to do the same. We typically assume, especially with commonly used public spaces, that the forming of those sites is out of our control; they are as they are made for us. It became a project that was about how we create our spaces through how we use and choose to relate to them or not. We make our world. And we have the inherent creative power to make it more of our world by engaging it in a dialogue, the artist's way. This is true even for seemingly trivial places like this one sidewalk at a campus street corner.

Initially I operated in relative secrecy, intending to leave my markmaking as anonymous interventions to be possibly found later and hopefully contributed to. Over time however, it would happen that people would see me work in concentration, collecting and arranging twigs, seedpots, etc. and ask me what I was doing? I would explain, and invite them to at any point join me or contribute. Some would say they already had noticed or even enjoyed the mysterious occcasional arrangements. Over time others did get involved; and often in my absence. The temporary drawings would just as often be overlooked, or accidently destroyed. It was a windy corner at times, so the weather would also regularly disperse or erase the drawings-in-process. So did the gardeners in their automated lawn mower mobiles, until I spoke to them. Conversations with others taught me lots of things about that particular area, its elements of nature, and the people that frequented it. The feedback I got was encouraging, and felt like a meaningful exchange, contributing to new insights. I learned that by spending attentive time in a place you can develop a relation and bring change. I also learned about the possibilities of directly interacting with audiences, not a natural inclination for someone like me who was for a long time focused on a studio based practice.
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  PROJECTS
We the people (of California Ave)
Local Colors
How have you been an artist today?
PCMS
Red States; Lens; Focus
Sidewalk Drawings
Library Exploration
Sittings
I/O - a public video art program
Homeless Signs
 
     

     
  OVERVIEW  
     
  Title:  
  Sidewalk Drawings
 
     
  Place & Dates:  
  Oakland
A Mills College campus street corner
 
  Nov. 2003 - Jun. 2004  
     
  Project consisted out of:  
  The creation of unfinished abstract drawings, created from natural debris found on and near the same streetcorner where the 'drawings' were left, as invitations for further collaboration with any accidental passers-by. The project continued for eight months.  
     

Sidewalk Drawing near the grass
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