Found Art (2nd Ave, Gowanus) Unmonumental 817 via Unmonumental.org
This interview with Joy Garnett about her unmonumental project was conducted in late November 2013 via email, by Mike Flynn, a student at the Community College of Rhode Island, on the occasion of #unmonumental: a collaborative project -- artist Joy Garnett, and CCRI art students (Nov. 5 – Dec. 5, 2013)
1. What makes your project "art" in the formal sense?
These images can be taken individually and together as art in a number of ways. I make them in the service of my larger, overall project. They are driven by the same need that drives my work in the studio. Over time, they have developed to become more than just pictures of funny garbage that I post online. The whole thing is some kind of ongoing endurance performance in the streets and in shared media channels.
Formally speaking though, these images are art in the sense that their depiction of abject objects and detritus consciously reference formal tropes in contemporary art, including but not limited to Arte Povera, the found object, formalist sculpture (Minimalist and Post-Minimalist); seriality; networked performance; and so on.
I'm sure that they are similar in appearance to other pictures taken by kindred flâneurs and lovers of city streets, and anyone who takes pictures of garbage and shares them online. In fact, I put forward the hashtag #unmonumental partly to encourage or aggregate similar images and attitudes. What is different about my project is that the images, taken as a whole, constitute an uninterrupted process that has developed over several years (2008-present). Through the production, accumulation, and sharing of hundreds of images over a period of time, the idiosyncrasies of the process and my sensibility have been honed.
3. What is your favorite photo?
I cannot say!
4. What was your inspiration for this project?
I shot the first unmonumental photos and posted them to twitter as a snarky comment after having visited the wholly unsatisfying 'Unmonumental' exhibition at New York's New Museum. Eventually, though, the project moved into the realm of engaging the street and simple objects that were ignored or abandoned, and examining or simply noticing the beauty of temporary states. I would say that as an east coast girl, it was chiefly the spirit of Robert Smithson that started to stir within. I became enamored of the parking lot (etc).
5. Were there any effects layered on the photos, or were they uploaded as is?
6. Were any of the photos arranged in any way? Or just taken as you saw them?
Nothing I shoot is ever arranged. That is one of the rules. Another rule is that I never photograph anything that is deemed art or intended as aesthetic. That's part of what makes these objects 'found art.' This places the emphasis on spotting what is already there, and on making editing choices in terms of what to shoot and what to pass by.
7. On your Flickr page you talk about the "ever-shifting formal concerns of art and the rich feedback loop between artist and city." Could you elaborate on that for me?
Artists respond to their environment, and this is reflected in their work, either consciously or unintentionally. Post-Minimalist sculpture and the streets of New York, for example, are deeply intertwined.
8. Were these photographs taken in any specific part of NYC? Or anywhere you traveled in the city?
I limit the project to objects I come across in NYC and the five boroughs. I try to indicate the location in parentheses in each titled and numbered caption. This is a very New York-centric project, for me. I feel the history of contemporary art seeping up from the streets, and I feel the loss of the gradually-built-up poetics of the streets through rampant gentrification. Of course, other artists in other places have their own relationship to their cities, art histories, ephemera and garbage.
9. Is there a progression or story to the photos that is supposed to be in the background?
There is no narrative or linear progression other than the adventure of walking in the streets and coming upon unexpected stuff. If there are other narratives, I don't know about them. Maybe others will find them.