It’s a warm evening in late September. The streets of downtown Grand Rapids become densely saturated with people and food stands decorate each corner. Public lots raise their prices by $5 and it becomes apparent that the largest art competition in the world has commenced.
ArtPrize is an annual event that began in 2009, and from the beginning there has been a technological component to the competition itself.
A total of $500,000 will be given out to two sets of winners: one judged by a panel of expert art critics, and the other by the votes of the general public. Each ArtPrize entry is accompanied by a code, which public viewers can text to 808080. This is one way to vote.
Another is to download the mobile app, which has many other useful functions. The official ArtPrize app has been evolving for years. The 2015 version dropped the routing feature, one that allowed users to map out their own tour according to what they wanted to see. Regardless, you can still do things like vote quickly, search for art, and get walking directions to anywhere you need (and thank goodness, it tells you where the nearest bathroom is!). The city of Grand Rapids is also offering free Wi-Fi to the public. How generous!
Speaking of generous, Pantone is a main sponsor of ArtPrize 7. Pantone is a company that specializes in color measurement and management, leading in coloring and lighting technologies. Meaning if you want an image to show up one color, this company makes sure the rest of the world receives it in precisely that color. You might recognize one of the featured pieces on their blog.
Throughout ArtPrize, you can find many pieces that have some immersion in technology. For instance, each year there are a number of entries that include a great deal of LED lighting. It’s a very simple addition, but one I can’t get enough of!
Another trend I’ve picked up on comes from the number of installation pieces that include a visual or film component. For instance, there’s an entry called “A Mouthful of Flesh” nestled in an edge of the Calder Plaza. It is a white “room” that observers can walk into. There is nothing in this room except a bare twin mattress to the left and a small TV screen in the middle of the center wall. “Blood” is splattered on the walls and the bed, and the TV played a short film that I still have yet to interpret. It aims to explore themes like love and risk-taking, but there’s a relation to a futuristic cell and Jungian psychoanalysis. Definitely one to check out yourself.
Normally Artprize is concentrated in downtown Grand Rapids, but the competition has been spilling over to residential streets in recent years. This year, I found myself on Rumsey Street where many abandoned houses and buildings have been converted to artistic representations of varying concepts. If you walk past the port-a-potties, through the lot, and follow the mulch pathway, there is a piece called “How to Feed a Wolf”, an installation with two projectors involved.
Technology present in ArtPrize is either for visuals or practicality with engaging in the event. Otherwise, the bulk of technology you’ll see is all the obsolete hardware used to make sculptures. When it comes to voting and the mobile app, I appreciate the minimalism. It’s honestly all anyone would need for a competition of this nature; though I will note that I feel the routing feature was a great idea and should probably come back.
However, I could see a great deal of potential with artists incorporating more technology in their work in the future. Some interesting things could happen with use of that public Wi-Fi alone.
Of course, this is all going off the tip of the iceberg. I have much more ground to cover, and two weeks to do it!