All About the DOG Sculpture Installation and Akane Takayama

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Paradise Gardens 19 & 20.06.2010

DOG Sculpture Installation 2010 by Akane Takayama
Paradise Gardens, Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London

These photographs come from both Saturday and Sunday and show some of the organisation and delivery management behind this project. The artist had worked for several years before hand creating the models, designing delivery, structuring a community benefit within a social inclusion remit and paying attention to every small detail. Behind her a management team and a group of volunteers built up an operational and marketing plan which all contributed to make the installations a very popular success. The image above shows the start of the day when the management centre (tent) has been set up and the DOG sculptures are starting to be laid in place by Akane Takayama.

Once the artist has taken time to place and arrange the DOG sculptures the team of volunteers then peg them into the ground.

The essence of the art of Takayama is the way in which she places and juxtaposes the elements of her sculptures. To the untutored eye all you see is a load of cardboard dogs, all basically identical, all with the minimal amount of personal character. They look like they are simple to make and to many it would be something you could probably just "knock up" in an hour. However, that is the heart of this artist's skill, to be able to put together an installation of this scale and yet retain a sense of simplicity and naturalness is no easy task.

Once the sculptures are in place they form connections and relationships which are compelling for the audience. Throughout the two days people were quite simply enchanted by this piece of public art sculpture.

The volunteers moved amongst the crowd giving out leaflets and posters and talking to the audience. All of these volunteers reported that people were fascinated and asked all sorts of questions about the artist, the sculpture and the role of art in the community.

One of the features of this work was that the artist went to primary schools throughout the area and ran one day workshops for year 4 to 6 children in model making. The children were encouraged to develop their own model making skills and understand sculpture through planning and spacial awareness.

At the end of each session the children were asked to write of their hope for the future. These messages were tucked into the back of the neck of the DOG.

Throughout the two days people went from DOG to DOG reading the messages of hope from the children.

This aspect of the sculpture was very important. The DOGS in themselves are in effect clones, each as similar as possible to the next. A pack of uniformity where all identity can only really be that which the viewer brings to the installation.

Yet once the panorama has been grasped and the audience move to interact they find that each DOG is personalised by the message of hope each one holds from the young children of the borough. As they moved from DOG to DOG the audience began to identify personally with individual sculptures.

During the course of the installation people want to move the DOGS, children want to carry them off, bash them, cuddle them or just tear their ears and tails off. Our team of volunteers spent the days replacing and repairing the DOGS. We took the position that this interaction was an intrinsic part of the installation, as the public interacted the installation changed and moved in response to that interaction. The public, unwittingly were manipulating the installation and adding to it in their interaction and thereby re-defining its appearance.

The last act of the installation was for the volunteer team to gather the DOGS together and then they were handed out to the audience. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to take and possess a DOG. Grown men begged for one, children wept for one, some people lied in an attempt to get one, some tried emotional blackmail but most just stood patiently in line waiting for the chance to own one. But the moment I will never forget is when a child in tears because all of the DOGS had gone was handed one of the sculptures by a young man who had been desperate to get his own DOG. That was a moment re-afffirmed our own common humanity, our ability to share and our ability to care.

DOG Sculpture Installation 2010 Part One: A Success

Next: Clissold Park, Hackney 31st July 2010
Holland Park, Kensington 8th August 2010

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