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Joey Orr interview with Suzanne Lacy, Sunday, 19 July 2015

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From 1985 to 1987, California-based artist Suzanne Lacy initiated The Whisper Minnesota Project. This work addressed cultural perceptions of aging women and explored their representations in public opinion and the media. It was a conceptual and performative platform that encompassed events, classes, film screenings, a media campaign, and a leadership series, among many other activities meant to contribute to the aesthetics and politics of the work. It culminated on 10 May 1987 in the one-day performance, The Crystal Quilt, in which 430 women over the age of 60 discussed their views on ageing. This performance, a visual spectacle that activated a design by painter Miriam Schapiro and included collaboration with many other artists, was attended by over 3000 people. In 2012, the Tate (London, England) acquired the work in the form of video, documentary, quilt, photos, a sound piece by Susan Stone, and a time-lapse film. The title of the work collected by the Tate is The Crystal Quilt, the title of the one-hour public performance. Its dates, however, correspond to the two and a half year, socially embedded Whisper Minnesota Project (1985–87). When the title of the performance is associated with the dates of the social project, many nuances get washed over. This interview explores the challenges and contradictions that arise when social practice that is generated and deeply anchored in the public realm finds its way into major institutional collections.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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  • Art & the Public Sphere provides a new platform for academics, artists, curators, art historians and theorists whose working practices are broadly concerned with contemporary art's relation to the public sphere. The journal presents a crucial examination of contemporary art's link to the public realm, offering an engaged and responsive forum in which to debate the newly emerging series of developments within contemporary thinking, society and international art practice.
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