Mag to choose new scaffolding artist

by Emily Murphy / Beacon Staff • November 15, 2012

Gauge tharp
Student words will adorn the scaffolding screens.
Student words will adorn the scaffolding screens.

During the summer, the Little Building scaffolding got a makeover. This interactive work done by artist John Powell, overseen by the visual and media arts department, was the catalyst for Gauge Magazine’s “Outside” text/walk contest.

Lindsey Train, the assistant marketing director for Gauge, a literary magazine on campus, said any current undergraduate Emerson student can submit poems or text fragments in hopes of having their words projected on the structure and winning a $25 gift certificate to The Thinking Cup. According to an event created for the contest on Facebook, all entries must revolve around what the person reacts to when they hear the word “outside.”

Train, a junior marketing communication major, said the particular word was chosen for a variety of reasons, including the many interpretations that can be drawn from it.  

“It’s really open,” she said. “It could be in the literal sense of outside, but it could also be feeling like an outsider.”

As of now, the scaffolding features quoted phrases from various alumni.  Powell, a Boston-based light artist who also contributed to the LED projections on the Paramount building, said he chose previous graduates because the structure went up this summer, when most enrolled students were away. Powell said he gained permissions to use snippets he found from archived Emerson publications.

However, he said he now wants contributions from current undergraduates.

“I really wanted students to get involved, so we put a call out,” Powell said. 

Train said she thought the placement of the winning work was a great opportunity, since the scaffolding artwork can be seen by anyone walking down Boylston Street. 

“It’s a really great way to show off the Gauge publication while also helping artists — specifically writers — within the Emerson community to get exposed to the public,” Train said. 

Powell said the artwork consists of light projectors that go off when someone walks underneath them. According to Powell, he became involved with the project through his acquaintance Joseph Ketner, the distinguished curator-in-residence at Emerson.

Ketner said that while the artwork had only recently been placed, the college had wanted to install it on the scaffolding since it was built five years ago.

“Our first reaction was, ‘How can we make this less ugly?’ ” he said.

Ketner, who contacted various literary magazines on campus to see who wanted to host the contest, echoed Powell’s thoughts about the need for student interaction with the artwork. He said that he and Powell will have no hand in deciding the contest. The Gauge staff will choose the winner and then hand over the text to Powell for projection.

“It’s very much about [the students’] experience with it,” Ketner said. “We thought they should be the ones to write it, and they should be the ones to choose it.”

Powell, who created the current projected images in Photoshop, said his reasoning for featuring Emerson work on the structure had to do with its location. 

“I like to do works of public art that are integrated with where they are,” he said. “And I like people to be involved with them.” 

In terms of how different the winner’s words will look, Powell said he is thinking of incorporating images with the Gauge contest winners. He said he hopes to have the new designs up after students get back from Thanksgiving break.

While the contest was originally set to end Nov. 9, the magazine has extended its deadline until this Friday. Train said Gauge had received seven submissions by Tuesday, but hope to have more entries by the deadline. According to Train, there may be multiple winners, depending on how many enter the competition.