whitehot | Octorber 2008, Art on Track
Art on The Track
If you hang around Chicago too long, you become familiar with the
terminology of the public transportation system. The trains run above
ground on the elevated tracks ("the El") and all circuits lead to the
city's center, "The Loop," referring to the tracks that encircle
downtown. Chicago's transportation system is infamous for being more
of a hassle than it should be with crowded sparsely running trains
dispersing in straight lines from the loop. So, what happens when a
train circles the loop with traditional and unusual art exhibits and
installations living inside? The result: organized chaos? A genius and
unconventional venue? Or just a plain bad idea?
SALVO, who refer to themselves as "a think tank of artist who have
recognized a gap between the broader public body and the artistic
community," organized and curated a series of eight passenger trains
into a project that provided "Chicago artists with a means to exhibit
the work unconventionally" in addition to providing the means of the
public to redefine their role in the arts.
Six local galleries and dozens of artists came together to transform
eight passenger cars into a moving exhibit, placing it running on the
tracks. The galleries featured were Salvo, The Silver Room, Quennect 4,
Flatiron, Peter Jones Studio and Gallery, and Colbiri Studio &
Gallery. The media found within the trains had a vast range comprising
instillations of photography, paintings, a puppet show, living grass,
a fake body and actor/musicians. Each car had its own unique theme and
was envisioned fully.
The logistics of the event provided a unique experience for
participants. As the train pulled into the platform at Adams and
Wabash, groups of young hipsters and art appreciators, poured out of a
car just to pour into another one. This chaotic effect reoccurred at
every designated stop as the train proceeded along the loop, allowing
visitors to spend only a maximum of 2-4 minutes in each train before
the forced scene change was inevitable- switching venues. The
logistics for "Art on Track" expands beyond the traditional three dimensions of art to
include the fourth- experiencing a change in time and location.
The change in function from the normal vehicle of mass transit to a
moving art gallery forced changes on the traditional art viewing
experience. Participants of this new form of "gallery walk" were
forced to squeeze through the narrow hallway of the train dodging
artwork, standing passengers, and conversations. The venue did not
allow for one to slow down, step back and appreciate art. Instead, it
closely resembled just another frantic trip with Chicago's public
transportation, except for the constant reminder of the conductor
repeating "This is a non-service train" reminding you that, yes, you
are at an art opening.
Even though the venue of "Art on Track" was the perfect setting for
reaching a wide audience, (The El transports 500,000 people daily),
SALVO's mission of integrating the public and the art of Chicago was
missed by limiting participation to only those who bought tickets.
But, regardless of the restraints provided by the venue, group SALVO, the
other five galleries, and all of the artists participated in an
important unconventional event for the city, that progressed with
significant strives to, as one mural under a field of sod stated, "Look for alternatives."
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Shiloh Aderhold, a recent graduate from Wittenberg University, is an art historian, critic, and artist from North Carolina and Georgia. She lives and works in Chicago. firstname.lastname@example.org