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Friday, August 26, 2005 | Red canvas tarps. Clear vinyl sheets. Orange construction cones. Green AstroTurf. Blue and yellow beanbag chairs.
There’s a look of confusion on people’s faces as they pass by the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park Wednesday afternoon. Two large tractor trailers have replaced the cars in the parking lot out front. At one end stands the empty wooden frame of a small house, juxtaposed against a sprawling green faux lawn.
Is it a stage? A new mini-golf course?
If all goes according to plan, this curious-looking work in progress will soon be a functional work of art – an “infoSite,” or information center – housing books, brochures, maps, computers and people to assist in the navigation of inSite_05, a bi-national network of contemporary artistic projects and events, which opens throughout San Diego and Tijuana today.
Since its inception in 1992, inSite, a bi-national nonprofit organization based in San Diego and Tijuana, has commissioned more than 150 artworks by local and international artists in public spaces throughout the border region. The fifth incarnation of inSite will showcase 22 new commissioned projects by artists from 15 countries.
Calling these works “interventions,” rather than mere site-specific installations, the goal of inSite’s public commissions is to challenge conventional notions of public art and public space, as well as foster collaboration between artists, institutions and community groups, according to inSite officials.
Local architect and inSite_05 artist Teddy Cruz is the mastermind behind the San Diego infoSite project, which has been in the works for about a year. For him, intervening in a public domain is essential to his work as an architect.
“In San Diego, we are seeing a lack of true public spaces,” said Cruz, sitting on a blue beanbag chair, inside the tractor trailer, as contractors and electricians hurried to finish construction around him. “Originally, we wanted to construct (the infoSite) downtown, in the middle of all the franchises and consumerism.”
However, getting building permits from the city proved to be difficult. Cruz had two downtown locations in mind before he was forced to look elsewhere, eventually landing the slab of asphalt in front of the Museum of Art. Getting city and museum officials to allow two huge tractor trailers with a tent on top took about nine months.
“People are used to public art as a static sculpture in a very mediocre public space. (inSite) is more about people inserting themselves into the reality of the city,” Cruz said.
In addition to creating a hub of information, Cruz wanted to convert the parking lot into “a place of people rather than cars.” Hence the large rectangular patch of AstroTurf dotted with beanbag chairs inviting people to sit and engage in conversation.
“It’s not about public spaces as we know it (but about) informational and social networks, and how they can affect public domain. It’s a stage for many things to occur.”
Although inSite opens to the public this weekend, each of this year’s 22 interventions began as artist residencies nearly two years ago. Osvaldo Sanchez, inSite_05’s artistic director, said the process behind the commissioned projects, particularly the artists’ collaborations with various institutions and communities, is just as important, if not more so, than the completed projects themselves.
“Art is about thinking, reconsidering experiences about what the creative attitude means. That’s not only shaping a form, it’s about how you reach people, how you communicate, and that is the range of experiences that we are considering (as art),” said Sanchez.
In addition to the public interventions, this year’s inSite features three other components – online, multimedia and archive projects; public forums and lectures; and a collaborative, two-city museum exhibition, “Farsites,” which opens Saturday and will run simultaneously at the San Diego Museum of Art and the Centro Cultural in Tijuana. In total, inSite will feature dozens of works by more than 150 international artists.
“Our mission has always been to facilitate collaboration among institutions,” said Michael Krichman, executive director for inSite_05. “There are a lot of institutions, cultural and others, in the two cities that collaborate in one way or another to make inSite happen.”
Through their collaborative works, inSite artists are able to push the limits of public spaces usually sanitized and tightly controlled by institutions.
“And the spaces that are public spaces are dramatically mediated spaces. So having artists kind of pushing against the limits, or an institution that’s trying to help an artist push against those limits can be a pretty interesting thing.”
Krichman suggests the museum exhibition, “Farsites,” as a good point of entry to inSite_05, a place for people to “get their feet wet” before experiencing the other components that exist beyond gallery walls.
Other good places to start, of course, are the two infoSites, located in front of the San Diego Museum of Art and the Centro Cultural in Tijuana, and the inSite_05 Web site.
inSite_05 will host four weekends of intensive programming – starting this weekend – held once a month through Nov. 13. “We’ve set it up as almost a menu of experiences with a shuttle system … to kind of help people get from one place to the next” to experience each of the four components, said Krichman.
During these weekends, people will have the opportunity to witness special events, such as performance and interactive works, some of which will only be staged once during inSite’s three-month run. These include a human cannonball soaring across the border (Aug. 27), an “aerial bridge” made from model airplanes flying above the Tijuana River (Sept. 24), and a singing choir of military wives in Murphy Canyon (Sept. 25), among others. For a schedule of events and travel information, visit
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