One of the web's longest running participatory art projects came to an end last week when Learning To Love You More—co-founded by indie art heroine Miranda July (also of Me and You and Everyone We Know)—officially ceased accepting submissions. For years, the site had been popular among artist folk of all stripes, accepting documentation for assignments ranging from photographing strangers holding hands to acting out someone else's argument. For many, the announcement also came as no surprise. The site's last added "assignment"—to "say goodbye"—foreshadowed the impending shut-down, though the site will stay online as an archive of past submissions.
Collaborative public art has been around for a long time through mail art collectives and even graffiti, though the web has enabled more participation and is largely responsible for spreading the word about (and thereby the success of) projects like PostSecret. More recently, radical activist types like Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore have initiated smaller scale projects like lostmissing.
Some people think that collaborative projects like these—particularly those that primarily exist or are documented online—take the focus away from actual public space action. The thing is, they usually tend to promote it, and some would be nearly impossible to organize if not for the interwebs. Take The Soofy Travel Project. Can you imagine, for example, the logistical nightmares that may have previously confronted anyone trying to coordinate a global mail art experiment without email? At least when you incorporate technology into these projects now, your benefit is twofold: organizing is made easier, and sharing project documentation becomes part of the fun.
All of these projects exist on a spectrum, and thankfully, a lot of online relationships foster physical community in real time. The Speak! CD from the radical Women of Color Media Collective brought together members of the Radical Women of Color blogosphere, and events for publications like, well, this one, promote a way to meet like-minded readers in your city. It isn't all confined to cyberland.
With the shuttering of LTLYM, it's made me think back on some of my favorite participatory art projects of the past few years. What are some of yours?