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New Artist Showcase Comes To The Public Media Commons

Mitch Hill's video during Public Media Commons Artists Showcase test
Courtesy of Mike Pagano

For the first time in the Public Media Commons’ short life a group of young visual artists will display site-specific work on the main and secondary screens Tuesday night. Mike Pagano, 36, of the Nine Network helped the artists develop their projects for the space. He says the works will be a balancing act between artistic vision and accessibility.

“Kind of the tension between the artist, their vision and their voice, and what their work is traditionally about, and how to bridge that so that it fits with a space that’s accessible to everyone,” Pagano said. 

The event focuses primarily on video art but will include physical works. Pagano says the work includes narrative and abstract pieces. The art on view will be the first of its kind, a product of a five-week workshop designed to help artists develop work just for the public media commons. During the workshop Pagano introduced artists to the space physically and conceptually. The artists discussed the importance of public media and the technical parameters available for their projects. Pagano said the physical characteristics of the space make it a unique creative surface.

“What I specifically like about the PMC is it’s not television and it’s not the Internet,” he said, “It is an open space and I would like to see it behave the way a park behaves, where people can enter the space, use it for its own small gatherings, or kind of build out larger things  - like this showcase that we’re going to have - that are specific to a time and place and allow the public to engage with the arts community on a really grand scale.”

Pagano says the work includes narrative and abstract work. Musician and artist manager Darian Wigfall, 33, and photographer and filmmaker Chris Renteria, 40, collaborated on a piece that walks the line between narrative and abstract.  The piece focuses on recent events in Ferguson in a documentary tone, but doesn’t tell a story with traditional structure.  It’s comprised of black and white still photography, audio recorded on location, and relevant quotes from history and here in St. Louis.  According to Wigfall the space shaped the work.

“I think the space of the Public Media Commons really kind of guided where the project ended up versus where it started out,” said Wigfall. Renteria and Wigfall’s collaboration was shaped by the chance to engage with multiple screens of different size and placement throughout the space.  The two artists focused on the form but didn’t let their attention stray too far from their content.

“Mostly the ideas were coming up from a way to present the events that were happening in Ferguson to a broader audience in St. Louis,” said Renteria.   

The filmmakers agree that the piece isn’t propaganda.

“We spent the majority of the time discussing how to walk the middle of the road in this production. Ultimately the goal is not to take a side, or come out swinging for anybody, I mean we’re swinging for humanity and equal protection under the law for everybody,” said Renteria, “that’s our goal.”

The attempt to capture different perspectives and voices is also reflected in Pagano’s approach to curating and presenting the various projects.  Pagano said he’s trying to approach the space from the multiple perspectives available to passersby. He’s interested in capturing people who think of the screens as just backdrops and eye-candy as well as those interested in the commons as an event space.  But his real goal is to unite a public with art people may not usually have the chance to experience.

Detail of Kevin Harris' video at Public Media Commons Artists Showcase
Credit Courtesy of Mike Pagano
Detail of Kevin Harris' video at Public Media Commons Artists Showcase

“Really the goal for that is to expose the general audience and the people that would come to these artists and give them a relationship where things can grow and develop,” he said.

Pagano hopes this relationship will grow with the Nine Network as well.  He said he hopes this showcase will open the door for artists to produce more expensive and more expansive projects in the future.  

The showcase takes place in the Public Media Commons from 7:00-9:00 pm Tuesday, December 2.