Some time ago I wrote about the question “How to democratize art?”. Aram Bartholl’s work is maybe one of the best examples of how to engage a large group of people with contemporary art. Bartholl meticulously tore down those boundaries built around the image of the ‘artwork’ as something far from our everyday lives, converting people into active participants of his projects. Gestalten dedicated one of its latest publications to him. The Speed Book is the first comprehensive monograph of Bartholl’s projects, with essays on his work, an interview and AB News #1 and #2, two supplements conceived in the shape of a magazine.
Some of Bartholl’s projects gained him plenty of publicity, such as Map (the big red Google Maps marker that was turned physical and placed in urban space) or Dead Drops, a file-sharing network installed in public spaces through USB sticks placed into walls of landmarks or buildings, which we already mentioned in a previous post. These interventions perfectly underline the nature of his work as a smart critique on the digital world through public projects that bring typical Internet culture elements and video-gaming (which everyone knows and can be easily understood) straight into our lives and our cities.
Bartholl calls in question the idea of the artwork, mixing it with contemporary pop culture. Re-contextualizing digital markers into extraneous contexts and public spaces, he playfully destabilizes our confidences, surprising us with unusual, mind-blowing installations.
Aram Bartholl is considered an artist and a curator at the same time. In The Speed Book, Evan Roth, founder of F.A.T. (Free Art And Technology Lab, of which Bartholl is an active member), talks about the author as a hacker because of his interventions that turn established an ordinary elements into something unexpected in order to make us doubt about our common assumptions.
The title of the book is inspired by The Speed Show, a project which presents an exhibition series where an Internet café is turned into a net art gallery for only one night, showing work of different artists on the computer screens. People are, of course, the other major protagonist of the project as active players in this new concept of exhibition.
No more walls or boundaries. Speaking a friendly, well-known language, Aram Bartholl surprises us — art can be in our everyday experience. Acritical eye is enough to perceive it. Finally, besides the great work of Bartholl, I would like to add that the book is a really nice, well designed publication that shows how it can be possible to realize a valuable and modern editorial product using infamous typefaces like Arial, Courier and Times. Perfectly in line with the work of the author.