ArtPrize artist wants art seekers to feel watched

“there’s something happening here…” as seen atop the UICA in downtown Grand Rapids. (Sept. 11, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An ArtPrize entry that sits atop the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in downtown Grand Rapids has already prompted questions nearly two weeks before the sixth annual competition is set to start.

The installation, titled “there’s something happening here…,” is a work by Henry Brimmer — an artist whose pieces have caused art seekers to look up in past competitions. In 2012 and 2013, his entries “GRAVITY MATTERS LITTLE” and “i want to be different…” could be seen hanging above Monroe Center.

Brimmer’s 2014 installation involves human silhouettes on the UICA’s roof – several of which appear to be holding guns.

One person who commented on WOOD TV8’s Facebook page questioned whether the piece is appropriate.

“Is this silhouette of a sniper for Art Prize? If it is, is this really something our city wants affiliated with this great event, considering all of the fears people have over public shootings?” the commenter wrote.

And several passersby Thursday didn’t like the piece, saying it made them uncomfortable, that it was “freaky,” and that it wasn’t art.

Brimmer said his piece is meant to garner reactions.

“How the people then will react is not really up to me and it makes my explanation seem artificial,” Brimmer told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday in a phone interview.

He said there are many people in the world who live in conditions where they are continually under surveillance, often not knowing if those who are watching them have their best interests at heart. He said that the recent demonstrations and violence in Ferguson, Mo. forced him to consider issues including race, the notion of a rising police state and what he calls the fantasy of privacy.

“That is one of the big questions today that everybody talks about a lot, is that our freedoms, our privacy in a way being compromised,” Brimmer said. “If [Artprize patrons] freak out about it, they don’t freak out about it as bad as people who live it every day.”

And for many people passing by, the piece did raise questions about surveillance and a police state.

ArtPrize officials say they’re not concerned that some people were shocked.

“At the end of the day, all artwork should be offensive. Even it offends you because you are caught off guard because it is so beautiful,” ArtPrize spokesman Todd Herring said.




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