ArtPrize is an independently organized international art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is the world’s largest art competition based on daily attendance, prize amounts, number of artists and venues. ArtPrize 2014 takes place September 24-October 12. Voting number for “Just Listening” is 56367. ArtPrize officially opens Wednesday, September 24.
One of my friends, Ruth Tyszka, together with two other artists created a piece that challenges the NSA surveillance programs and whether the concept of Lady Justice has continuing validity in a time of world-wide mass surveillance.
Here is their explanation of the piece:
Darcel Deneau, Joan Schwartz and Ruth Tyszka worked together for months to create their 11 foot high sculpture “Just Listening” for exhibition at the 2014 ArtPrize art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The three accomplished artists deploy art and technology in this visual commentary on American ideals within the context of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) electronic data surveillance and collection programs.The artists were honored and excited to be selected to show their sculpture “Just Listening” at the Fountain Street Church venue, which partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to present the exhibit titled “Art To Change the World: Inspiring Social Justice.”The artists drew from a broad range of experience in different mediums to carefully choose a variety of mixed media materials to construct a contemporary Lady Justice lifting the world above her head. Serving as a symbol of American ideals and morality within the justice system, the Lady Justice figure is initially intended to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, drawing to mind traditional representations of Lady Justice. Upon closer inspection, the viewer is invited to participate and question the NSA’s systematic use of technology to collect information on citizens of the United States and from around the world. Lady Justice wears an elaborate gown made from surveillance-related news articles and punctuated by a cascade of red and white glass mosaic stripes down the front. She stands on a platform of data servers and balances above her head a 30-inch diameter globe constructed of repurposed circuit boards and stained glass and lit from within. A tablet computer embedded in the globe streams Tweets that reference the NSA. Earbuds connect Lady Justice to the world’s data. Throughout the sculpture, the artists use symbols like the slipping blindfold, the scales of justice, and the American eagle tattoo to metaphorically raise questions about the potential for compromise of Lady Justice’s representation of justice, fairness and equity.
Deneau is a graduate of the College for Creative Studies (Detroit) and recently completed her term as the Board Chair at the Detroit Artists Market. Schwartz graduated from Wayne State University (Detroit), is a non-practicing pediatrics nurse and currently serves on the board of the Mosaic Artists of Michigan. Tyszka is a graduate of Oakland University and Wayne Law School (Detroit), currently splits her time between law and art, and is the Governance Chair on the Board of Trustees for the Society of American Mosaic Artists.