BROOKLYN—Saturday 26 Sept 2003. This was my contribution to 'Sandwiched
', a project organized by Jacob Fabricius in cooperation with the Wrong Gallery and the Public Art Fund in New York. Jacob had asked ten artists to make a sandwich board for him, which he then wore for one day each over two weeks at the busy Fulton Street Mall
Jacob Fabricius: Your sign YOU CAN’T HURRY LOVE got many comments at Fulton Street Mall street Saturday afternoon. Some asked: “Are you broken hearted?”, “Do you think you’ll find it from standing here?”, “WHY NOT?” and “That’s the truth - you’re right about that!” It was a very sweet and funny experience, people smiled, and I got a few winks. You have done many social and public projects, what do you think is necessary in public projects?
Aleksandra Mir: A good sense of location
JF: How do you usually approach the public?
AM: Without preconceptions of who they are
JF: How does YOU CAN’T HURRY LOVE relate to them?
AM: Of course I had the vague assumption that since you are so sweet and angelic-looking yourself, the sign would appeal to a lot of girls who would see themselves targeted by the message, and would see you as being vulnerable and approachable. But the best moment for me, during the hour I watched it, was when you stopped for a while by the Black Israelites, a controversial group who claim to be the true Hebrews, denouncing white supremacy. They have these very loud and aggressive public preaching sessions and were out that afternoon with their speakers. As they were screaming their urgent biblical message you were standing there quietly, in torn blue jeans and my sign, facing them as a listener but also letting them read it. That was a magical moment to me, something unexpected and powerful happened. Two very interesting ideas confronted and complemented each other
JF: There is humor and an openness in your projects, why is that important?
AM: The artwork is always a kind of catalyst for me, a way to find out about society. If I set out assuming too much, it becomes didactic, boring and out of sync with the world. This way, there is always a new story created. I also think my art should be lightweight—at the end of the day it is only a game
JF: Why do you feel it’s important to challenge art in the public space?
AM: I am glad about how you pose that question, because you are right, it is not so much about challenging the public as about challenging yourself and your art. The public is only as nice and cooperative as it wants to be. They like it, ignore it, take it further, or destroy it, according to their own pre-dispositions. Public art is art about the public. My job is only to channel their desire and movements
JF: What would be the ideal way?
AM: More money for more artists to be able to realize more projects like this
JF: Could you tell me about your upcoming project?
AM: I have been working on a project for the last year where the mechanics are quite similar to your sandwich board idea, but is a bit more ambitious in scale. It is called
The Big Umbrella. I have had a large men’s umbrella built by a professional prop maker in Paris. It is a perfect replica in every detail, but large enough to shield 16 people from the rain. It is a sculpture but also a prop for my performance. I will step out in the Parisian rain with it this fall and interact with the public there. I can start out by protecting them from the rain by the Metro station so they can smoke a cigarette and find their wallets, offer myself to promenade with a stranger in the park, or just wait for anything to happen. The Big Umbrella is also a metaphor for socialism, whatever that means these days. In any case, I am the one holding it up
The following year Jacob invited
The Big Umbrella to Copenhagen