Conversation with Jan Tichy
Jan Tichy is an artist working with a variety of mediums ranging from sculpture, video, architecture, to photography. He earned MFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and is teaching art and technology at SAIC. Over the past five years, his art has been included in the exhibitions in different cities, such as New York, Washington, D.C. Chicago,, Venice, Berlin, Paris, etc. Yan’s art deals with relationships of art and science, audience and artists, as well as students and teachers. Currently, his exhibition Aroundcenter is on view at the Chicago Cultural Center.
L: In the project Lighten Up, your goal is to inspire, encourage, and celebrate the local communities of Chicago by using the public art. What motivates you to achieve this goal?
J: I have no clear reasons. I do it because people need it. Every people and every place asks for some thing different. I know the need and do something about it. The need does not only refer to human need, but also to spatial need.
L: But sometimes the human need conflicts with the spatial need. A public sculpture may aesthetically correspond well with the surroundings, but the habitants don’t like it. In such case, how do you deal with this situation?
J: There were some conflicts. But I think space is created by people. If a public work produces interventions to people’s life, it should follow people’s willingness. Also, artists are supposed to have a transparent conversation with the residences. Artists need to tell people why their works are important to the local environment. Like Chicago Picasso, at the first beginning, there was a public demonstration to against this work, because people don’t understand what it is. But today it functions very well for the public. Everyone likes it. What is the most important is how to navigate it to be responsible to the public.
L: Do you think it is necessary to make a research to see whether people accept a public art project before launching it?
J: It depends, sometimes we did some research, sometimes didn’t. It depends on different projects. We can’t compare two public art projects and to see whether they should be accepted. Each project is different in terms of its space and habitants.
L: Your public projects like Lighten Up, Gabrini Green energized and engaged a lot of students and local residents. What makes these projects participatory?
J: Well, the most important thing is responsibility. It is very important to know people’s needs and do something for their needs.
L: At the outset of project Gabrini Green, did you envision a certain result of this project, or let the process open to change?
J: Certainly I have an idea of Gabrini Green. I want to let young people make their own voices. Every student comes here with an idea. I just let their ideas give out.
L: What is your role in this project?
J: I do everything in the project with others. I am designer, I am manager, I am also driver, a producer, etc. I did not just manage and envision an idea, but did it together with students.
L: Do you think your individuality and creativity can be weakened when you collaborate with others?
J: Weakened? I don’t think so. It depends on different projects. For example, when I worked for my photography, I do it on my own, very individually. But for public art project like MoCP Collection, there were so many different questions and implications as it was going on. In this situation, it is not the problem of doing it, it is the problem of how to do it. Usually I did not wait answers to appear, but to collaborate with others to find answers. This is our collective creativity.
L: Could you please talk a little more that collective creativity in Gabrini Green?
J: Sure. In Gabrini Green project, every student is very creative. They should be creative for being collaborators. If not, they become assistants. Their creativities are very important, there are two reasons for that. First, more heads know more. That is very important for collaborative art. Second, 25 graduate students came into this project and they did projects unpaid. In America, this is rare. But they would like to do it because they want to develop and present their creativities. This building is a place for them to be creative.
L: Your projects kind of enhance the participants’ self-values. They were very engaged in your projects because everyone is an artist.
J: Yes. I regard them as artists. They see themselves as artists too.
L: I have been trying to explore the value beneath the surface of public art projects. I would like to know in your project, what elements contribute to the artistic values?
J: Well, dealing with relationship through art is a very nice thing. It requires sensual and intellectual perceptions.