Artist Formerly Known As: Josh Frankel

Could I get a taste of your frost?

Could you ever incorporate a frost into public art?

I haven’t given much thought to it, but I’m sure I could figure something out.

Explain the idea of your public art class.

The class is called Art for the Public Space, and it’s taught by Peggy Diggs [part-time lecturer in arts and humanities]. We look at lots of public artists operating in the world. It’s interesting that there’s a range of majors represented in the class, not just studio art majors. There’s political science, history, lots of different interests leading to a wide range of things getting done. There were three main projects, focusing on memory, history and activism.

What is your Snack Bar webcam Amherst project?

The Amherst projection is activism.

How did the idea for this start up?

I had the idea for this over the summer; I was at a Vito Acconci lecture. . .

Who?

He’s a contemporary artist. He has a kind of architecture company that does a lot of Percent for Art projects. When an expensive building gets built, often there are regulations which say that a certain portion of the expenses must go for an art project on the property – that’s a Percent for Art project. One of Acconci’s projects involved some kind of wind or solar powered generators at the top of a building. The power that these generators created would slowly rotate benches in a garden area on the ground level. I liked his use of remote events linked through technology.

Kind of like the guys here taking their shirts off and the girls over at Amherst taking their shirts off?

Yeah, one of the fascinations with this project is how what we do here affects someone over there and vice-versa.

My motivation behind this is that our schools are so similar and the rivalry is in some ways so stupid. You know at homecoming you feel this incredible hatred for kids just like us. Sports rivalries are fun, but we never see these people, and when we see them they have these helmets over their heads.

I was chatting with someone over the connection who said it was nice to be able to put faces to the idea of a Williams student. I wanted to explore the idea of the mirror effect, by putting the camera next to the screen we see each other looking at each other. So instead of seeing my image, I see their image: this person at Amherst standing in for me. But it’s funny, the “when I wave, you wave. When I hold up a sign, you hold up a sign.” It adds to that effect.

 Do you see a lot of that?

Yeah, I’ve even seen people dancing with each other. And people getting each other to take their shirts off.

Is that the craziest thing you’ve seen, speaking from the pure Jerry Springer-type entertainment point of view?

The best was seeing five or six guys after the Guster show, all taking their shirts off and getting the Amherst students to do the same. It was the first night the project was running, and people were just discovering it.

So what exactly are you hoping people will get out of this, the feeling of what it’s like for people on the other end?

Yeah, another influence in this thing for me was my semester abroad in Scotland. While there, I went over to Belfast, and I was told I had to go to the peace wall. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I got there, I discovered that it’s this two story wall that separates the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods.

You can imagine Protestant kids growing up thinking Catholic kids have horns on their heads – they’ve just never seen each other. So maybe that’s the type of place where this could do the most good. Another possibility would be to do it with Williams and Howard, but Williams and Amherst was natural and easy to set up relative to other pairings.

How did you get that contact?

I talked first to Dean Roseman, who connected me with their dean of students, who then got me in touch with the people in their versions of WSO and Jesup. They’ve been really helpful maintaining the connection and keeping things running over there.

What about your tower project in front of Stetson?

The tower I did with Elliott Gansner ’02. It was an idea we came up with two years ago but never got around to. It’s similar to the projection in that it has at its core, for me, a touch of a critique – in this case regarding what people do with their reading packets and the knowledge in them. People are often not saving these things.

To be sure, plenty of people refused to contribute, but many did, obviously. This waste is a fact of school, you know, though it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I throw out my packets, but I can still go to the library if I want to find the articles again. You take a class, you read stuff and you forget stuff.

You do learn, but the truth is that you spend hours studying for a test as though it’s the only thing in the world. Then you take it, and it’s over, and it in many ways gets tossed aside. Its manifestation is that pile up, the tower of blue books, packets and notebooks.

This is some quality stuff – anything else?

One thing I’ve been discovering here is that when I set up the Instant Messenger Chat feature, I was hoping to generate some sort of dialogue about the projection project. And the chat’s making it easier to communicate – so people don’t have to use crazy gestures and write things down on paper and show it to each other – but people are now suddenly at a loss for what to say to each other.

It’s been a lot of fun to just watch in the Snack Bar.

Mostly it’s been someone finding someone they might have known in high school or somewhat removed, some sort of name game. You also get people hitting on each other. . . maybe the interaction comes now but deeper thought or effect will come later.

[Josh stands by the screen, eventually one of the girls on the other side gets Josh’s attention and over the Instant Messenger, says, “you’re cute, who are you.”

He replies,“This is my art project, my name is Josh.”

Soon enough she is informed by a friend of Josh’s that “he’s taken.” She’s visibly disappointed.]