It's a common complaint about art: "I don't get it." The French theorist Nicolas Bourriaud explored that idea back in 1996 -- how art can often be so removed from the everyday human experience, cordoned off in museums and behind velvet ropes, that it becomes something obscure, something elite and, therefore, meaningless. What Bourriaud wanted to know was how everyday people interpret and react to the art they see every day -- art, for example, like graffiti. That's the idea behind relational art, and that's what Daniele Perra is: a relational artist.
The Italian designer, artist and teacher is coming to Denver for a six-week residency courtesy of PlatteForum, which just procured a $15,000 grand from the National Endowment for the Arts to bring him here.
"It is kind of different than what we've had before," says Judy Anderson. artistic director and founder of the artist colony. "It's not about creating a work of art that goes into a museum or a gallery; it goes somewhere where casual observers can interact with it.
"Let's say there's a hospital that's not used, which is the kind of thing you'll find all over western Europe -- Daniele's worked extensively in western Europe. So let's say it's just been destitute for thirty or forty years. Squatters will go in and start writing on the walls, and then you can respond to these things, and this spontaneous communication happens. So there's a movement to take that communication from the context of urban dialogue and transfer it to canvas, to another context, the context of the museum. But he'll work with these kids in the community to find this graffiti, and then he'll kind of have them find the originators of the graffiti, and then bring them in to talk about their art, or their artistic process or what influenced them. So it's breaking down these barriers that stand between art and the common man."
That last part, with the kids in the community, is part of PlatteForum's dual mission: The first part is to bring in artists for residencies, in which the Forum funds them to work and just kind of do their thing in peace. The second component is that whatever that work is gets at-risk youth involved.
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For this residency, PlatteForum will collaborate with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which is also getting its own youth program involved and which will house the installation Perra and his team comes up with. Perra's residency starts March 23; the installation will go up May 6 at MCA Denver and stay up for about a month.