artist Krzysztof Wodiczko creates art by projecting images
upon the monumental architecture found in large cities. His ephemeral
projection pieces last only a night or two, but they reclaim the
city streets as places for discussion and heated debate. In the
image directly above, the artist projected a photograph upon the
domed Centro Cultural Theatre of Tijuana. The domed theater
is where a documentary tracing the history of Mexican civilization
is screened daily. The projection's theme was the undocumented
Mexican workers who risk their lives to cross into the United
States in search of jobs. The image used in the projection shows
a Mexican worker with his hands clasped behind his head, as if
being arrested by La Migra (the INS).
artist spent half his life behind "the Iron Curtain" and the other
half in Canada and the United States, so he has a well developed
critique of power and it's abuses. The artist's early projection
pieces utilized regular slide projectors placed on the ground,
but with time more powerful projectors were used from flatbed
trucks or scaffolds. Wodiczko's art is profoundly democratic.
It forces the viewer to reexamine the function of architecture
and to reconsider the political nature of the steel and concrete
caverns of commerce that make up large cities.
1987 the artist projected a controversial image onto the Martin
Luther Church in Kassel Germany, one of the few buildings
to have survived the allied bombings of World War II. It was a
great irony that in 1987 the city of Kassel experienced an "evacuation
alert" due to the threat of industrial pollution from nearby
factories. Some months after that alert, the artist projected
upon the Church the image shown at right. The artwork is of a
person praying in a hazardous materials protective suite. Deeply
influenced by the German photomontage artist, John Heartfield,
Surrealism, and the French Situationists of the
late 1950's, Wodiczko said this about his projections. "The
attack must be unexpected, frontal, and must come with the night
when the building, undisturbed by it's daily function, is asleep
and when it's body dreams of itself. This will be a symbol-attack,
a public, psychoanalytical seance, unmasking and revealing the
unconscious of the building, it's body, the medium of power."
projection at left was made in Madrid Spain just days after
the outbreak of the first Gulf War, in January 1991.
The images were beamed onto the triumphal arch celebrating the
victory of fascist Generalissimo Francisco Franco in the
Spanish Civil War. Wodiczko projected a pair of death hands...
one grasping an M-16 machine gun, the other a gas pump nozzle.
At the top of the arch the question ¿Cuantos? (How much?),
was projected. In a 1988 interview, Krzysztof Wodiczko said this
of his projections. "My work reveals the contradiction of
the environment and the events actually taking place there. It
is to do with politics of space and the ideology of architecture.
City centers are political art galleries."
photos in this essay were taken from, Public Address, the
compiled works of Krzysztof Wodiczko. The book is an amazing 175
page journey through the artist's various international public
projection projects. Beautifully illustrated with photos of the
actual projections on city streets, the book is an informative
and inspirational guide to what is possible regarding public art.