City Behavior by Grace MN is a new type of exhibition running through December 11 in the Third Floor Gallery of Metropolitan State University.
Young, an artist in residence with the City of Saint Paul, said the project allowed the participants to look back at five years of individual and collective work. They come from different places and range in ages, but share a common experience if living in the Midwest for several years.
Grace MN (www.graceminnesota.org) includes four public artists, Marcus Young, Kathleen Maloney, Aki Shibata, and Travis Spangler, along with other student participants. These are works in collaboration with other people, agencies and organizations that were created to “re-enchant our daily lives”, by revealing the “inner, natural and civic life from a personal and collective experience in the public spaces and across the institutions and systems of the city.
Their goal, according to Young, is to allow enough room for the artists to approach a behavioral art concept that incorporates their various skills in visual, performance or public art, or music into a medium of body and actions that stimulate the mental processes involved in behavior.
“It reflects that spaciousness and openness that I think our world needs,” said Young.
“Be prepared to read, be prepared to think, be prepared to imagine, and have the time,” he added. “If you can do those four things then you are prepared.”
The term, behavioral art, is roughly the Chinese equivalent of describing performance art, he said. It is a relatively new term and so can be difficult to articulate until people understand what it is they are attempting to create.
“I actually think that is a more interesting and appropriate term for us than performance art,” he added. “Our work has some performative elements, but really we’re interested in changing our own behavior and creating works of art that help other people examine their own behavior and change their behavior.”
The concept is flexible and in this project they are focusing on the things that make community, the everyday, the common things. It is reflective, refined and heightened, with maybe a little direction to encourage reflection on how people move, live and behave, he added.
Some projects were originally collaborations with Saint Paul Public Works and Public Art Saint Paul, such as “Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk”, which features the poetry of 34 Saint Paul poets, stamped into sidewalks throughout the city. Other projects, include the Earth Day kite event, “Wishes for the Sky”, “Don’t You Feel It Too?”, and “From Here to There and Beyond.”
Young met Metro State Gallery Director Erica Rasmussen, through the Sidewalk Poetry Project and said she invited him to put something similar together for the gallery. The indoor concept was new and challenging and he said the group formed after a lot of dialogue.
“We are not used to galleries,” said Young. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to learn how to represent ourselves in a gallery space.”
“The City Behavior show is a stretch for Third Floor Gallery as well,” said Rasmussen. “As a general rule, we stage shows that lure individuals across the threshold through visual stimulation.
“This is a quite show that requires time for introspection and reflection,” she added. “If visitors can make the time to read through the brochure, handle the objects and linger over the small scale photographs, I’m sure their day will be enriched.”
Although this is an indoor gallery exhibition, much of the work is based on earlier outdoor public artworks, and though is not expressly environmental, Shibata notes that the natural elements (Earth, wind, fire, water) are important and is appreciated in the work.
Shibata said the collaborative process in a behavioral art project is difficult to describe. She brings a photography major and visual arts background and met Young when she took his Performance and Instillation class at the College of Visual Art. She was a founding member of Wishes for the Sky and then Grace MN.
She said art college changed her point of view of using photo as more than technique, and of using a creative mind an apply her skills to a wider concept such as Grace MN.
“I think working with four people is great, because, it makes me think that I am not just alone, and it is wonderful to have relative mind to create anything,” she said.
Young adds that we know about the things around us, but that it is odd to know more about outer space than we do about inner space. This nurtured an interest in conceptual art and spirituality that is Grace MN. The collaborative work attends to the inner life, the natural life and the social life.
“We are interested in those three things because we feel they are very much ignored in our society,” he added. “The inner life is something that is so fascinating but it’s really something that we don’t know very much about.”
The natural life concept encompasses environment and the notion that when you are in tune with yourself – the inner life – then you will be in tune with the needs and situation of the outer life. He said the project takes inspiration from the wind, the sky and the river because they are powerful things that also need careful stewardship.
The concept of social life and the civic life it is not just about looking at people, but of how people relate to one another beyond commercial relationships as a standard of culture, he added. They want to explore how people can be together and to create collective experiences that are more meaningful and in wanting to create a healthy society.
The idea of Grace, he said, is a word that is only five-letters, but is a large, almost nostalgic term than evokes both a large space and the intimacy of a small town – “a large and small concept.”
The individual projects may not seem to relate on the surface, but there is an overarching concept of a fictional place, not unlike Lake Wobegon, he added. He said it is very Minnesotan and yet expansive enough conceptually to include many sorts of people, and embraces and expands on what Minnesota is today.
“That is the big bag into which we put all of our projects,” said Young. “There is a sense of bringing something to this but claiming what is there already.”
The Gallery is located on the Third Floor of the Metropolitan State Library and Learning Center, 645 East Seventh Street, Saint Paul. Hours are Monday to Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The gallery is located in the Library and Learning Center, 645 East Seventh Street, Saint Paul.