People in Space
Art, Research, and Communication at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo
The 2010 Shanghai World Expo hosts nearly 200 countries within a 5.28 square kilometer area and is officially recognized as the largest in the 159 year history of World Expositions. Many of the participating countries have created temporary multi-million dollar pavilions to address the theme “Better City, Better Life,” and 70 million visitors from around the world are anticipated to attend between May1st and October 31st.
People in Space is a project organized by American artists from Boston, Massachusetts that utilizes the context of the Shanghai Expo as a platform for contemporary art, research, and communication. We see an opportunity to learn from and contribute to this unique event by actively engaging with both the people and spaces that define it. We hope that this project will act as a useful artistic survey of one of the most compelling reoccurring events in history. Considering the complexity and scale of the Expo we have chosen to remain flexible with our efforts in order to take advantage of unanticipated opportunities and situations that arise.
Approximately 375,000 people attend the Expo each day in order to enter popular pavilions. Many of these visitors will have spent over 10 hours waiting in lines consisting of thousands of people. With these conditions in mind People in Space has sent out an international call for proposals inviting creative thinkers to submit ideas for actions that engage waiting visitors in unexpected ways.
We evaluate the proposed actions based on three categories: utilization of the lines, simplicity of design, and strength of concept as it relates to the context of the Expo and its themes. Proposals that are selected will be performed by a team of expert practitioners in and through the lines present at the pavilions. They come up with the actions and we implement them as their surrogate.
In addition to the projects in lines the People in Space artists on the ground at the Expo will utilize unforeseen contexts as platforms for further artistic actions. Currently, this project is an unofficial part of the Expo. We will be flexible and diplomatic in how, where, and what we create there.
Our research is intended to provide basic information about the context of the Expo in order to support our art and communication. We have selected three main questions to explore through interviews, direct observations, and the collection of materials available online. Using these questions as a starting point to engage visitors, volunteers and organizers we intend to gain insight into the myriad topics associated with the Expo.
What motivates people to attend? What inspires individuals, organizations and nations to participate and attend this Expo? What did they imagine it would be like? How did their imagination of the expo change once they arrived?
How has the Expo organized people and space? How does a country get to host and participate in an Expo? How is the Expo managed and administered? How was the overall layout of the Expo determined? How does the architecture affect the space? Were there any criteria for the sustainability and design of the Expo site and pavilions?
What is the most compelling content at the Expo? How are participants and attendees interpreting the Theme “Better City, Better Life?” What ideas, products, and pavilions are getting the most attention? What seems missing?
The relationships and conversations that we establish and grow throughout this project are germane to our artistic efforts. Through our work in Shanghai and at the Expo we will meet, converse, and share our project with residents, visitors, volunteers, and organizers. The insights from our art, conversations, and research will in turn be shared with a general audience online as well as the community of artists and organizations we represent from Boston. Starting from this point we hope to reach out to a more diverse audience and start dialogues with people and organizations from a range of fields.
World Expositions do not receive the popular attention and coverage that events like the Olympics do. As a result both American and other international audiences know little or nothing about these events despite their rich history as reoccurring international venues for invention, innovation, art, and culture. The organizers of People in Space recognize the potential in the form and scope of World Expo’s, as a whole, and specifically as a platform for contemporary art. We hope that through this project we can share our own excitement, and inspire creative thinkers from the U.S. and abroad to imagine how we can contribute to the form and content
of this years Expo and Expo’s to come.
The process and results from People in Space will be presented through an exhibition of video, photography, writing and installation at the Mobius gallery in Boston, MA, USA from October 8th - 13th. Ongoing documentation and blogging for this project will also be present online at: www.BerwickResearchInstitute.org, www.Mobius.org, www.ThePresentTense.org